Summer therapeutic sports camp in Masuria

02 sierpnia 2023

We have had over a week filled with emotions as hot as summer! The time spent in Olsztynek and its surroundings at the therapeutic sports camp was a continuation of the work started with the wards back in winter. However, true to the camp experience, there was also integration, entertainment, and ample opportunities for free expression.

We took the wards from partner residential care institutions from Białowieża, Krasne, and Supraśl to Masuria – mainly the same children who participated a few months earlier in the winter trip to Piwniczna-Zdrój. The reasoning behind this collaboration is straightforward. In essence, both camps form one whole. The therapeutic work initiated at the beginning of the year could be continued by the wards in their daily lives to close a certain cycle precisely during meetings with specialists on the July trip. Thus, together we can observe what changes within us and whether efforts, both individual and collective, bring results. It would also be a waste to overlook the integrative value of our prior connections. After all, we had the opportunity to become friends earlier, and nurturing these relationships is one of the most important aspects of shaping mature personalities!


In a healthy body…

Let’s start with the sporting challenges (which, by the way, have not only a rhetorical but also a practical dimension). After all, sports provide an excellent platform for integration, emotional release, breaking barriers, and overcoming mental limits.

In the Mazury region, we kayaked deep into our hearts. Rowing together is always a test of motivation, endurance, discipline, and teamwork. The flow of the river and the obstacles (whether it’s a narrow channel or open lakes) create an obscure sense of exploring a shared mystery. The adventure also has its purely physical dimension – over two hours of effort and the body’s trustful contact with the kayak partner.

And then there’s volleyball. Oh, volleyball! Every day, until late in the evening, the competition echoed across the lakes with shouts of enthusiasm and rallying cries for match play. It became a small tradition. An evening without hitting the ball over the net would be hard to accept – both for the youth and the adult supervisors. However, injuries were not avoided. That’s the flip side of sports involvement. It’s worth learning to react to crisis situations because they’ll meet us later in life beyond the court.

A break from competition came with a nighttime excursion to the Łyna River Springs Reserve. During the walk, hearts beat faster not at the thought of defeating the opposing team but due to imaginations of the nocturnal life of Mazurian nature. All senses remained alert: we looked and listened to what was happening in the darkness. But above all, the mind was at work! Such an expedition is a beautiful metaphor for working with the wards from institutions, where 40 thousand sources also feed beautiful but complicated personalities. And what is hidden from sunlight usually provides the most material to work with.

… is a healthy soul

From the first day of the camp, we emphasized the importance of understanding. Ultimately, of course, understanding ourselves. But first, understanding our place in the world, the local community we visited on our tourist excursion – to have respect for the external conditions surrounding us. Getting to know the history of Masuria was best started with a visit to the open-air museum and learning how the inhabitants lived here centuries ago and built their communities. The old church, school, homesteads – these were attempts to see the beauty of the nature surrounding us through the lens of those who created this place centuries ago.

Such an expedition is a beautiful metaphor for working with the wards from institutions, where 40 thousand sources also feed beautiful but complicated personalities.

However, The Foundation for Good Initiatives camp primarily consists of 25 hours of therapeutic activities. The intensive program poses both a challenge and an opportunity. Many weeks before the camp, we initiated consultations on how to establish safe conditions for dialogue. Our aim was to cultivate a conducive environment and a method for engaging in meaningful conversations. Consequently, we aimed for EVERYONE to learn how to transform obstacles into opportunities and how to adeptly navigate their inner worlds. It’s not about being at odds with ourselves but rather about establishing guidelines for a constructive alliance with our challenges, emotions – essentially with who we truly are. Various forms of expression proved beneficial, including art therapy, which unveiled numerous personal potentials. Additionally, crafting t-shirts about ourselves served as a valuable exercise in introspective self-analysis.

Body and spirit – ready for challenges!

But the most important thing for us is to look at the initiative honestly. Youth summer camps are a tough nut to crack for the organizer – also beyond the world of residential care facilities. In the souvenir albums, you can see smiling faces, shared adventures, and the building of a cohesive group. However, in reality, such a group rarely is without internal cracks. All the colorful pictures have their negative side, and when you animate flat images, it turns out that demons of trauma and reproduced violence also reside behind the smiles. Teenagers mature and expose themselves to various dangers. Unfortunately, sometimes they also expose others, against their will. Peer violence is the backdrop of youth relationships, which often occurs in specific camp conditions (but also in school classes, for example). In particular social conditions, a group is formed that develops its own code of power and dominance. Sometimes this sets in motion painful turbines of social mechanisms – emotional friction, the prolonged sound of which can be heard deep in the soul. There is a possibility that those for individuals struggling the most to find themselves may seek out allies. In the world of residential care institutions, such searches are not easy. And yet! We express our readiness and hope that support can be received both within the ranks of The Foundation for Good Initiatives and among the care facilities staff.



For those who broke rules at the camp, we didn’t just enforce consequences; we also extended our support and care to them, ensuring they felt understood and guided. Together, we seek solutions on how to break the multi-generational cycle of repeating negative attitudes and behaviors. The affected individuals received psychological support, although, of course, counteracting secondary stigmatization in the peer group still requires special measures.

During the summer therapeutic sports camp in Masuria, we kayaked, played volleyball, and faced reality head-on.

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