Slovakia: Summer Camp Teaches Cooperation

Detva, Civic Association “Aktivne Mesto (Active Town)”

detvaDetva is a little town in Central Slovakia where the level of unemployment is exceptionally high. During its 5-year existence, Civic Association “Aktivne Mesto”  helped many children from underprivileged families, orphanages, as well as better-off families to spend their summer holidays in summer camps.

“Our activities help to create the sense of safe environment where children can experiment with new forms of behaving and make mistakes without the same consequences they would have to face in “real life,’” says one of the main organizers Jana Michalikova. “This is one of the ways to show these children that one has the ability to change or change one’s behavior towards others,” she exclaims. Children learn how to trust one another and feel secure. The means to this end is building of post boxes, for instance: they can send letters to one another and utilize this means of communication.

Annual summer camps are accompanied by yearlong learning aimed for children of pre-school age who do not attend nurseries. These children are taught simple poems and songs, which prepare them for school. “Children who suffer from reading difficulties face problems during their pre-school education too. They cannot distinguish among shapes, which is why many exercises center on shape recognition. They are also asked to reproduce various shapes,” explains the leader of the project.

Cooperation between children coming from different social backgrounds fosters integration. Parents of these children welcome this integration component. One parent commented, “My child behaves in a completely different manner. He was asked to share room with an orphan and now he began to appreciate everything he has.”

Children begin to realize that other children may be raised in completely different conditions. We witnessed this exchange between two children: “Don’t think that I am better off because I live in a complete family and you live in an orphanage. When my parents meet, they argue all the time.”

What is our major contribution then? We help children to overcome their family problems and show how to build high-quality human relations, boost their self-esteem and be more independent. We want to grant them their right to happy and playful childhood. “A few years back we had a child with learning difficulties in our long-term care”, remembers Jana Michalikova. “ We did not judge him, nor did we exclude him. We gave him a chance. He was well aware of this fact. Today, this very boy is an independent, hard-working summer-camp leader. He keeps in touch with the Center on a regular basis, ordinary caring keeping in touch.”


The Education Program of the Open Society Foundation Slovakia helps to eliminate cultural and social exclusion of pupils and supports educational actions and strategies which allows integrate and/or reintegrate them. Emphasizing the position of school as not only the institution where to get an education but the school as the important actor of community living, OSF granted 15 projects of total 64 136 EUR in 2010 to enhance integration of children with special educational needs.




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