Lions in Action: Swedish Summer Camp
Giving Orphans a Chance to Enjoy Summer Fun
Poverty and alcoholism are responsible for a high number of abandoned children in parts of Europe, where hundreds of kids end up in orphanages. These children lead a hard, troubled life, devoid of hope, laughter and love.
The Lions Step In
The Lions of Sölvesborg, Sweden bring joy and new opportunities to these kids by inviting them to a camp in Sweden. “This summer camp has kids from children’s homes in Lithuania and Poland,” says Dan Jonsson of the Sölvesborg Lions Club. “These ten days give so much, to so many kids. A memory for life, and to see that there is another life, a life other than in an institution.” Campers travel to Sweden by ferry over the Baltic Sea. Not all of the children from the homes get to come to camp, so it makes the experience even more treasured for those who do. “It’s the first time they see the sea when they are coming by boat,” says camp leader Per-Anders Ekdahl.
A Dream Realized
The camp fosters a spirit of joy and hope. “This is the dream, the dream for all of them, every one of our children to come here,” says Bozenna Plonsk, the Vice Director of Child House Home in Poland. Lions and Leos also live at the camp. It’s an opportunity for them to mentor campers and bond through fun activities. According to Cecilia Anderson, a Leo, “The most important thing is that we show the kids that someone in a foreign country cares a lot for them.”
Summer camps are a favorite project for Lions in many countries. In Sweden, Lions have hosted campers ranging in age from 7-17 for nearly 20 years. Many campers say that they have made lifelong friends at the camp.
Make It Happen: How to plan a project that helps underprivileged kids.
This Q&A can help you get started on a similar project in your own community.
- Why did the club decide on this project? »
We heard about children’s homes for orphans in Poland, Lithuania and Romania, and wanted to give young people hope of having a better life.
- Where did you start? »
We contacted a children’s home in Lithuania, and went there to visit. Seeing children in that type of environment, we realized how much we could do to help them.
- What human/material resources does it take to keep the camp going? »
We do it all ourselves, with the help of Leos. About 20 members of our club and 10 Leos work at the camp. Some Lions stay at the camp, others come in the evening to prepare food and socialize with the kids.
- Do you need prior experience to work with kids with from an institution? »
No, but many kids are very closed off when they come. Last year we had a kid who was adopted but sent back to the orphanage. He was very sad when he came to camp, but at the end he was smiling. I think the camp saved him.
- Any special words of advice? »
We are the only club that does such a big camp in Sweden. It’s very expensive, but it’s worth every penny.