I used big words in the title, but it’s not all just about hyperbole, I really feel that the camp has made me a new, better person. So, what did I get during the few years of volunteering at Bátor Tábor?It would be very difficult to list, but now I feel like trying to put it into sentences, because once again my heart filled with great gratitude and love as I left the gates of Bátor Tábor (BT) after the spring family day – now together with my own family. Written by Mónika Markotán.
Since 2001, the Bátor Tábor has been organizing experiential therapy camps for severely ill children and their families, and for families who had lost their child due to some serious illness. All this for free!
People often ask what moved me towards volunteering, why my path led to Bátor Tábor, what do I get out of doing volunteer work (why do I work “for free”).
Thinking back to my childhood, I owe a lot to many people. The list of people I’m grateful to still today stretches back to elementary school. When I needed help, my tutors and teachers helped me selflessly, with clothes, kind words, attention, support, direction, and good examples. We carry such examples with us, and once we can afford helping others, there’s an intrinsic motivation to do the same. For whom? For anyone, everyone, who needs it.
I can’t remember anymore how exactly I ended up at Bátor Tábor, but I do have one memory: I used to go to the university by public transportation. On one such occasion, I saw Bátor Tábor’s 1% tax posters from the metro escalator, which really grabbed my attention. That was the first time, I think, when I realized it’s the right time and the right place to do something.
So I submitted my application, along with my CV which was still quite short at the time, and I chanted “they need me, they need me”. I went to a personal interview shortly afterwards, and then came the email informing me that I got into the 6th turn of 2011. This was my first camp. My first, decisive experience, followed by 14 more.
There are different camp types:
– Sibling camps: where ill children come with their healthy siblings for experiential therapy.
– Summer turns are visited by ill children, depending on the type of illness and age group.
– Autumn camps await ill children under seven together with their families.
– “Bereavement camps: Our so-called “Lélekmadár Tábor” provides help to families who have lost a child due to a serious, chronic illness. Over the four-day sessions, participants can meet parents and siblings who have gone through the same tragedy. Besides adventure therapy activities, they are assisted in coping with their grief by professionals. Throughout the year, we welcome families in three consecutive sessions (autumn-spring-autumn); over this period, a supportive, coherent community is built, and a long-term relationship is established between the families.” batortabor.hu
“Perinatal: The perinatal period commences at 22 completed weeks (154 days) of gestation and ends seven completed days after birth.” who.int
I’m currently at home with my own little miracle, but when my son gets older, I’ll return to the Camp as a volunteer, and until then I’ll tell my children a lot about the place that’s forever in my heart.
I can say without any exaggeration that the camp has completely changed my life. My worldview, my attitude towards things and people, my frame of mind, everything.
Among us we call BT Wonderland, and this place really does wonders for people. I recognized abilities in myself that I never would have thought existed. I learned to ask for help and accept it. I learned about myself, about people, about heartfelt, selfless affection, devotion, attention without even noticing it, I was simply part of the camp – I played, I lived every moment, I gave and I received. Originally, I joined in order to help, to do good, and finally I always went home having received much more than I thought I gave. And believe me, I always pushed to pitch in.
I have many reasons to be grateful to Bátor Tábor, but most of all for showing me that there’s no difference between camper and camper. I’ll make it clear: your hairstyle, or even having hair, doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if you wear designer clothes or live in more modest conditions. Looks and appearances are unimportant: your skin color, your origins, what kind of car you have or how big your house is. There’s a single important thing that connects all campers: the Bátor Tábor. The “back then” and the “right now”. The moments you’ve shared. The challenges you’ve beaten, the success stories, the joy, the sincere attention. And I think this is wonderful! In the camp I can be myself safely. I can show what I’m like. BT brings out the best in everybody: it encourages and reinforces you. Physically and spiritually. No one needs to ask, it all goes without saying there, during that one week.
I have a lot of beautiful, touching, decisive experiences that could even make a small book, maybe once I’ll write down my most defining experiences in a separate article because every time I tell about them, they fill my heart with gratitude and warmth. Each of them is important to me for different reasons. But there is one moment that’s present from turn to turn, and always warms my heart and soul with the same deep love: the camp song.
Every evening we stand in a circle, and every camp volunteer (“buddies”, as they are called in the camp), every camper, every health care worker, so really everybody, around 150 people all sing the camp song together, holding hands. No matter who you stand next to, you know they’re singing from their heart, and you know they mean every word. “You can count on us, never give up!”
On the last day of my first turn, when we said goodbye and sang the song for the last time, I knew that whatever happens from now on, I wouldn’t be alone. I hold the camp dear, and the camp holds me, too. Already then I felt that my world had changed greatly. And it’s been even more beautiful to me ever since.
For now, until my son gets older, I’m just keeping an eye on the events, but I attend whenever I can; I offer 1% of my tax to the camp, of course, because I know that my money goes to the best possible place. Also, if a “GO! Tábor bárhol” (“GO! Camp anywhere”) program will launch close to where I live, I’d definitely like to take part. Speaking of GO! The program has launched in Pécs, and I can only encourage everyone to join!
„We also take the experience of Bátor Tábor to those who cannot come and visit our campsite in Hatvan by providing them GO! Healing Experiences. Our programmes are free and focus on children who are under hospital treatment or arriving to check-ups.”
Having already mentioned my family, I cannot leave BT’s Spring Family Day unmentioned. This year, I didn’t step through the gate of Wondernald as a volunteer, but as a guest, together with my family: my son and my husband. I was very excited, counting the days, being full ecstatic when we set off and when we arrived.
As an “outsider”, it was really interesting to live all the experiences in the camp during the short time we spent there. It was nice to see familiar faces, friends, and the places which, if they could tell tales, I would listen to every day before going to bed, to have sweet dreams afterwards. It was great to feel the vibe of the place. Even though it was raining, no one was depressed or downcast, everyone was singing happily, dancing, talking to each other, and being glad to be there. And I was absolutely happy and grateful. I was glad to be able to share this special day with the people who are the most important to me. I was glad glad to be there. I was glad that, as a guest, I could experience the camp through the eyes of the campers. I was very pleased to see how mindful buddies were towards everyone and everything, really. During my time as a buddy, it was natural to set up a room for mothers and babies, to create a playing corner for the little ones. And now, from the other side, I could experience how good it feels to be able to retreat from the bustle with my baby; peace, tranquility, and silence awaiting us, everything set up for intimacy, because the buddies have even thought about this, they’ve even thought about us.
And that’s Bátor Tábor! This infinitely versatile, selfless kindness, attention, and caring! I’ll be forever grateful for getting the chance to be part of it, and what I got out of it! Had I a wish, I’d wish for my son to grow up and grow old in a world where people treated each other in a way that’s natural in the camp! Then we wouldn’t need wishes anymore.
Thank you, thank you, thank you!
You can read the author’s previous article here.
Source of featured image: batortabor.hu
Translated by Ádám Hittaller