Camp MAXIMUM in Italy, organised for displaced Ukrainian children, was staffed by volunteers who are themselves displaced Ukrainians, now living scattered across Europe. Here they share their thoughts about the experience of working with youngsters deeply affected by the war.
“For two weeks we worked with children who left their homes and came to Italy to hide from the war. The stories are different. Some have become responsible for their family at a young age, some are going through the divorce of their parents, some cannot accept themselves, some have survived sexual harassment, some fled their city under fire. We only met 100 children and heard 100 stories; just think how many more children are left alive but dead inside? Their joy, naivety, openness to the world, desire to love…everything that is inherent in children, has died.
”These are the powerful words of Dasha; her feelings were shared by many of her fellow volunteers.
“The children,” says Christina. “It was difficult to listen to their stories and comprehend so much of their pain. I tried to give all the love and care that I could.”
“There were troubles,” shares Anya. “These troubles helped me challenge myself: to accept every teenager with all their peculiarities; to be 100% present; not to dwell on mistakes, but to correct them.”
Anya T. says “Camp Maximum in Italy was quite a challenge and test for me. God was changing not only the teenagers, but also me in this story. It was not easy, emotionally or physically. There are so many difficult stories that it was impossible not to experience the teenagers’ pain with them.”
And yet, beyond the recognition of the difficulties, the overriding message from the volunteers is that it was a powerful and positive experience. “It was worth it. It was worth the tears shed, the patience and energy spent. It was worth it for the children to feel that they are not alone.”
The incredible setting, beside a lake and surrounded by mountains in Northern Italy, was perfect for enjoying outdoor activities. The packed programme kept everyone busy, and they all appreciated the opportunity to speak their common language, eat familiar food, “to recreate Ukraine, create a feeling of security, home, and love,” as Christina puts it.
Another key element all the volunteers commented on was the atmosphere amongst the staff. “God gathered such an incredible team,” says Anya T., “everyone was a support and encouragement to one another.” In all of their testimonies there is a wonderful sense of unity, and the joy of working together to do the best for the young people they were serving.
Anton sums it up. “This camp gave me new life, forced me to reconsider my relationship with God and with people. If we list all the blessings that God has given us, there will not be enough time. I will only say that my own strength ran out on the first day, then God acted, and most importantly, two teenagers from our team accepted Christ and decided to follow God in their lives. This camp became one of the turning points where we clearly saw how God worked.”
To find out more about MAXIMUM and the other camps we support, click on the ‘Newsletter’ link below. Head to our ‘Donate’ page if you’d like to give a gift.
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