The second session of the day camp for Ukrainian teenagers in Brussels came to an end. And the Promote Ukraine team shared their thoughts, feelings, and a general overview of how it unfolded.
During the school holidays, many day camps for children work in Brussels, but not all are affordable. Promote Ukraine, a non-governmental organisation, carried out a free and active vacation for Ukrainian teenage refugees with the support of the European Youth Foundation of the Council of Europe.
The camp, called “Children-UA,” took place during the autumn break and spanned for 5 days. The programme included workshops in psychology, conflict resolution, journalism, and financial literacy. Moreover, to learn about different professions children visited the European Parliament; Indigo, a 4-star hotel; and, thanks to Brussels Airlines, the Brussels airport.
That was the second session of the Children-UA camp, with the first occurring during the summer break. This article explores how the organisers prepared for it, whether it was challenging to surprise Ukrainian teenagers for the second time, and what the autumn session will be remembered for.
“We wanted to show something interesting and useful to the children’, organisers on selecting workshops and preparation.
The organisers strived to choose the most captivating and beneficial activities and workshops for the teenagers, drawing on the experience of the first camp shift. The program differed, as some participants from the summer session also signed up for the autumn one.
“We brainstormed numerous ideas, selected only the best options, and then began incorporating them into the schedule,” said Kateryna Poliakova, the Head of the Refugee Affairs Department. “The preparation for the second camp shift was somewhat easier because it was based on the experience gained from the first session. However, it turned out that four teenagers from the first session also enrolled in the second, so we had to modify the program to keep it interesting for them as well. I truly enjoyed working on the camp’s organisation because I love creating the atmosphere, and I’m satisfied with the vibe we’ve managed to establish. And I also enjoy surprising people. By this, I mean witnessing their excitement after visiting the hotel and seeing how it operates inside, or visiting the airport, where the children explored the part of the building not accessible to regular passengers. It was rewarding to see their amazement, enthusiasm, the sparkle in their eyes, and their joy. We’re also planning a third camp session, but we haven’t decided on the dates yet.”
On Halloween day during the Children-UA camp, participants came dressed up in themed costumes
Lyuba Karpachova, the inspirer of the educational camp and the Head of the Culture, Sports, and Youth Department at Promote Ukraine, also notes that the experience from the first camp session was beneficial, “During the interview stage in the summer, the children’s requests were mostly about wanting to find new friends. This time around, the children mentioned more often their desire to broaden their horizons in general. Of course, many of them still miss Ukrainian culture, and we are very pleased that some teenagers continue to volunteer at Promote Ukraine. The teenage years are not the easiest for teachers. We took lessons from the previous camp and introduced conflict resolution and worked with a psychologist during the first days because last session, on the third day, the children had such a big argument that we thought they didn’t want to do anything together at all [laughs]. However, this is precisely the period of crucial and interesting energy exchange when you can see that you can teach them something and make them think, and sometimes they also teach you.”
Promote Ukraine volunteer Tetiana Charkina participated in the organisation and execution of the educational camp for the second time. This time, she conducted workshops on emotional intelligence, sexual education, and prepared a quiz about Belgium. Although there was a slight age difference in the two camp sessions (the first session included older teenagers aged 15-16, while the second session had slightly younger participants aged 14-15), both experiences were equally engaging.
“Both the first and second time, we had very creative children participating in the camp, and by the end of the session, they all opened up, showcasing themselves in the best light. It’s fascinating to observe their progress from initially being a bit reserved to becoming more friendly, open, sincere, and empathetic towards each other. The preparation for the workshops was challenging, not only regarding the topic of sexual education but also emotional intelligence. Because these topics are vast and complex, we had to plan thoroughly and think about how to present them to the children. However, during both sessions, the children themselves were of great assistance. This modern generation is deeply interested in psychology, self-development, and self-discovery in general. Concerning sexual education, one pleasant surprise was that some teenagers already have this subject in their school curriculum. It’s indeed a challenging topic for most children, as they are still shy, but there are certain aspects with which they are already familiar, such as feelings of attraction. In those moments, we aim to expand their knowledge in this direction,” shared Tetiana Charkina.
Many activities, excursions, and workshops received positive feedback from the participants of the second Promote Ukraine camp session.
During the visit to the Indigo Hotel, camp participants learned about the professions of an administrator, chef, waiter, and barista
The efforts of the organisers weren’t in vain, and the teenagers gladly shared their impressions of the Children-UA camp. The teenagers were fond of interesting excursions, valuable workshops, interaction with their peers, and lots of fun.
Maxym Volkov, 14 years old, Dnipro: “What I liked the most was that, apart from the first day, we didn’t spend much time in one place. We were constantly going on different excursions and workshops. There was a lot of interesting information, and I gained new and useful knowledge during the activities. Some of the topics discussed included financial literacy, emotional intelligence, and conflict resolution. I also enjoyed the excursion to Zaventem Airport and the game at the European Parliament. Thanks to the workshops and excursions, I gained a better understanding of the profession I might pursue in my future career. After the camp, I will analyse everything more thoroughly and reflect on my possible occupation.
Olena Drozd, the General Manager of Indigo Hotel, who, as a refugee, also came to Belgium, shares the secrets of success in the hotel industry with the children
Lianna Habrielian, 13 years old, Kharkiv: “I am very glad that I joined this camp and found many good friends. I truly enjoyed the excursions and visiting various places during the camp, as well as the overall vibe and atmosphere. The excursion to the hotel left the biggest impression on me. The interior was very beautiful, and the people were pleasant and friendly. We were told about the hotel’s layout, and how the kitchen, bar, and booking system work. To be honest, I had already decided on my future profession a long time ago, and during this camp, I reaffirmed to myself that I definitely don’t want to work in government-related structures.
The teenagers at Indigo Hotel mastering the reservation system
Kyrylo Machuskyi, 15 years old, Kyiv region: “The trip to Zaventem Airport and the visit to the hotel left the biggest impression on me. In the hotel, we learned how to serve coffee, make cocktails, and even cook a dish. There were many interesting activities during this session, including a financial game and various psychological workshops. I think that during the camp, one can discover an interesting profession or at least find something you like and develop in the chosen direction. I already have some thoughts about my future profession. I will either become a surgeon or a journalist. I’m interested in journalism, and during this session, we had an interesting workshop, and we also filmed stories on various topics. This is my second time at the Promote Ukraine camp, and I can say that I liked this shift more than the previous one. As far as I remember, the first session was the first one for both the participants and the organisers. After it, we filled in surveys and wrote our feedback, so this time they improved the program even further. To be honest, I believe that the extent to which teenagers enjoy the camp depends more on their ability to connect with new people and communicate with others.
This material was prepared with the support of the European Youth Foundation of the Council of Europe. Its content does not necessarily reflect the official position of the Council of Europe.
The Promote Ukraine team expresses gratitude for the assistance in organising the educational camp to Brussels Airlines, Indigo Hotel, the European Parliament, as well as all the volunteers who conducted workshops for Ukrainian teenagers.
Text: Kseniia Breslavska, Mariana Yukhno
Photos: Anastasiia Varvarina