The Friendship Games – a Place where Lifelong Friendships are Born
In the name of International Friendship Day, we want to share with you all the beautiful moments and stories that shape our project the Friendship Games camp.
Tijana and I made a deal that when we return to our school, the two of us will organize our own Friendship Games for the whole class. We will put everything in the schoolyard on one bench, I will be the guide for the games, and she will be the volunteer who will take care of our friends. We will constantly come up with new ideas and we will play Friendship Games all day long! – Nevena from the village of Veliki Šenj, a participant of our 7th Friendship Games.
It is this kind of children’s joy that motivates us to carry out our Friendship Games camp and to take children from rural areas on an unforgettable adventure in nature. Unfortunately, this year, due to the current global health situation, we decided not to hold our traditional friendship camp for the safety of children, teachers, and volunteers.
However, that does not stop us from remembering all the lifelong friendships that have developed over the past seven years!
Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: “What? You, too? Thought I was the only one.” C.S.Lewis
The goal of this project is to create a stimulating environment for children from the first to the fourth grade who attend combined classes in rural schools through various activities. The combined class is composed of students of two, three, or four grades with whom one teacher works in one room at the same time. Due to the small number of students in such classes and the often difficult financial situation of their families, these children do not have the opportunity to enjoy school trips. Also, they are mostly deprived of access and experiences in many activities that are every day for children from urban areas (eg visits to the cinema, theater, museum…).
For these children, the Friendship Games camp is usually the first time to go on a trip outside their village and to meet their peers from other parts of Serbia.
Through various educational and sports workshops, children acquire new knowledge and skills, learn about healthy habits, play sports, and perhaps most importantly – gain new acquaintances and develop friendships. Although on the first day they mostly stick to their teachers and friends from the class, by the end of the Friendship Games they all share their favorite moments from parties, bobsleigh rides in the Adventure Park, painting classes, kite flying or swimming in the pool.
“Friendship is not chosen – it exists just like love.” Meša Selimović
Our volunteers play an important role in organizing the Friendship Games. They are the ones who help us entertain children, take care of them, and teach them something new. During those six days, an unbreakable bond develops between the children and the volunteers. A special friendship is born, full of trust, sincerity, and love.
Friendship Games are not just my story, but the story of other volunteers, children, teachers, photographers, coordinators… It is a network we weave together and in which we share stories, some of which overlap, some are a new thread, and some have yet to be told.”, says volunteer Dragana Purešević
“Friendship is the same soul that lives in two different bodies.” Aristotle
The reason why our team organized the Friendship Games camp for the 7th time in the row for children all across Serbia is to provide them with unforgettable experiences that will enrich their lives and give them wings for all other endeavors that wait for them. However, there is also something else at the Friendship Games that always takes us by surprise – their power of friendship.
Their mutual support, natural feeling for sharing and desire for bonding, inspired us all to open our hearts even more for one another.
“I can freely say that the Friendship Games camp is the favorite project of the whole team, and we all participate in its reparation with all our hearts for several months. We retell the children’s anecdotes and impressions from the camp very often, and we also have our scrapbook with memories so we wouldn’t forget anything. The most impressive memories remain the ones in which children celebrate a birthday for the first time in their lives with candles on a cake and a symbolic gift from 130 new friends “, our project assistant, Sanja Milošević, shares with joy.
We hope that next year we will be able to safely organize our Friendship Games camp again. Our wish is to enable as many children from rural areas of Serbia as possible to experience such a unique adventure and to gain friendship without borders. Until then, we will enjoy retelling anecdotes, going through our scrapbook, and beautiful photographs. We wish you a happy International Friendship Day!