Friendship Games are an annual retreat for children from disadvantaged communities who will benefit from the experience in ways that will span the course of their lives. The idea is to offer them plenty of opportunities to connect with the natural environment, master valuable life skills, make new friends, have fun, show their creative side, learn together and from each other, and discover new interests and talents.
Even though our 5th Friendship Games have come to end, we hope that our little guests had the time of their lives playing games, enjoying outdoor activities, learning and discovering new things, visiting local sites and forging new friendships over the six days they spent together with their teachers and NDF staff and volunteers in Kopaonik. This year, the Friendship Games, traditionally hosted by our Foundation every fall, gathered more than 150 boys and girls, first to fourth graders from primary schools in Sokobanja, Pozega, Cuprija, Vranje, Paracin and Uzice. We did our best to ensure them a pleasant stay and give them the types of experiences that will remain in their memories forever: laughter at sunset. Flying kites in the midst of a breathtaking scenery. Looking up at a starry, night sky.
One of the goal of the friendship camp is to promote right values among children, like team spirit and team work. Thus, we couldn’t be more proud of them seeing how they support one another to overcome challenges in the adventure park or cheer for their friends during the sports competition.“You can do it, Marta! We believe in you.” These words of encouragement made every one of them a true winner.
In the evening it was time for a theatre performance. We’re glad the kids liked it so much. After the show, we spent a lovely time chatting with actors. Unsurprisingly, children asked them a lot of interesting and tricky questions. “Is it hard for you to be an actor?”, “Do actors and actresses really kiss on-screen?”, Which one of you is the princess and who are the trolls?”…
Red Cross workshop was designed for the Friendship Games participants learned essential first aid skills and practiced helping people in a first aid emergency. The workshop also proved successful in an unexpected way, revealing that some of the kids had a natural talent for acting. The “wounded” and “injured” did their part perfectly. They undoubtedly picked up a thing or two from the actors on and off the stage.
Swimming pool was our next stop. The idea was to teach kids water safety and enable them to improve their swimming skills beside having fun in the pool. “Now I can swim better than my mom and dad” they frequently shouted. On the other hand, not all children shared equal passion for swimming and sports in general. Some of them started to dream of becoming a scientist thanks to the amazing science experiments we had prepared just for them.
It’s no fun being an adult, isn’t it? The magic of childhood disappears as we get older. Farewell to making and smashing piÃ±ata and dressing up for a masquerade party. We no longer fly a kite, make a colorful drawing or pretend to be superheroes or characters from our favorite fairy tales. That’s why we are eagerly looking forward to our Friendship Games. After so many years, we can experience and enjoy all these things again with our little friends. They help us rediscover that it doesn’t matter WHAT, but HOW. They see the world differently from us – through the lens of imagination and every friendship camp reminds us of what we have forgotten on our journey towards the adult future. Therefore, we like to say that the Friendship Games are a valuable opportunity to learn from each other. We might have helped kids understand the process of making video games, teach them how to manipulate the robots, get them interested in astronomy and engage them in various forms of art… However, their lesson is far more priceless. They teach us what life is all about.
I was passing down the hall, tired and sleepy, yet aware that a lot of work still had to be done. Suddenly, I noticed the boy I met just a day ago running to greet me. His small hands gave me the warmest hug. Another boy came shortly after . “I want to hug you, too”. Is volunteering hard?, people frequently ask me. No, it isn’t hard at all.