Back in 2007, I was first introduced to the summer camp of the KjG Wiesloch (Katholische Junge Gemeinde, community of young Catholics). The camp lasts for 2 weeks and is held in the first weeks of the summer holidays. At first I was rather unwilling to go since I did not really know many people there. You are not allowed to bring mobile phones or other electronic devices (maybe apart from a digital watch (no smart watch)). The only way of communicating is to by sending letters. And so I wrote a letter to my parents after being there for a week. I was complaining and frustrated with everything. However, my parents were extremely surprised to see that after I had returned from camp, liked it very much and had completely forgotten that I had written this letter. From thereon, my brother and I went every year.
A typical day
Depending on the activity of the day, wake-up time is usually around 9:00. Everyone washes themselves and cleans their teeth before heading for breakfast. The children sit under large pavilions which protect from rain and sun (see Images below). Afterwards, the children clean their own dishes and the team prepares the first activity of the day. There are loads of different activities ranging from games in the forest to a show where every group performs a part. We even visit the pool once so that everyone gets cleaned properly. After Lunch it is time for the second activity of the day and then Dinner. In the evening we gather around the big campfire to sing, play games and hear stories and after an exhausting day most kids are happy to go to sleep. For more details please refer to the website of the KjG Wiesloch.
Every KjG has their own customs and traditions. For the KjG Wiesloch, one of them is how you can join the team of organizers that prepare all year around for the summer camp. The age limit for the camp is 15 years. This means in your final year before having to leave, you are placed in a special group, which we call ÜGRE (Übergangsgruppe, intermediate group). This group is special because usually groups in the camp are made up of 6-8 children of similar age and separated by gender but the ÜGRE is one large group which can be very big (up to 20 people was the maximum I recall) and where girls and boys belong to the same group. However, they are still separated by gender for sleeping in their tents. The ÜGRE is the scapegoat of the whole camp and the young adults are tested, sometimes made fun of but also given more responsibility on occasion. During their time as ÜGRE they have the privilege of making incredible memories during their possibly last year in the camp and learning what it means to be part of the KjG family. After the camp has concluded, a democratic process decides which new team members will join from this ÜGRE. In 2010 I had the pleasure of being in the ÜGRE and also to join the KjG Wiesloch.
What the camp means to me
There are multiple aspects which I enjoy about being a team member of the KjG Wiesloch as well as being in the camp itself. This small group of friends is truly bonded not only by their mutual interest but also by purpose. Giving every child the opportunity to have 2 awesome weeks during the summer break is what drives everyone of us. But we are not only altruistic in that we too have a great time, albeit having to deal with so many kids over such a period of time can be extremely taxing.
Life in the camp is very close to nature. We spend all of our time outdoors only sleeping in our tents. In addition we are disconnected from reality without any digital devices only receiving or sending letters to our friends and family. This creates a unique atmosphere where people talk to each other and one can simply exist without any strings attached. It is the feeling of true freedom.
I have been and still am part of other clubs and I know how sad it can be when long-standing structures do not withstand the test of time and fail in the face of increasing modernisation. That is why I am more than happy to say that this particular club has done many things very right to avoid such pitfalls. While the camp has always been part of the Catholic Church it fortunately did not have to deal with any of their problems.
The people that make up this team are awesome. I have made many friends and learned more about human nature than anywhere else before. I hope to be a productive member of this team for as long as it is reasonably possible for me.
Photo: KjG Wiesloch