Kerken: finally becoming a child again

Holiday camp in Kerken
Finally become a child again

At a holiday camp on Lake Eyller, local children were able to catch up on what many had missed during the two-year pandemic: playing, cooking, spending time together.

Maximilian, 12, balances on a rope between two trees at a height of a good seven meters. “Tell me when I’m in the middle,” he calls. Then he keeps his balance – and finally rappels down. Of course, Maximilian is secure. “It was cool, it was really fun,” he says. This climbing tour, which he did with other children at the Eyller See youth campsite, was part of a five-day holiday camp that took place in Eyll in the second week of the Easter holidays. . The “I’m POWERment” camp for children and young people is the name of the holiday camp.

It was hosted by married couple York and Jessica Rieger. Both are social workers by profession. Both have two children of their own. And both have experienced how the pandemic with all its side effects has made children’s lives worse. “At the start of Corona, I myself was quite seriously ill,” says Jessica Rieger. And for their children, lockdowns and partial lockdowns have meant that what really defines a child’s existence has fallen away: playing with peers, trying things out, getting to know new things and new friends. So she said to herself: I want to give something back to the children. “In every crisis there is at least one opportunity,” says Rieger. And the idea of ​​organizing the summer camp was born.

    York and Jessica Rieger organized the holiday camp during the Easter holidays for children and young people.

York and Jessica Rieger organized the holiday camp during the Easter holidays for children and young people.
Photo: Norbert Prumen

But first you need money. In the summer of 2021, the opportunity arose to apply for funding for such a camp through the German Foundation for Children and Youth. The Riegers did so and applied for federal funds through the Adventure Education and Adventure Association “Borderless”, of which York Rieger is the president. Then it was just a matter of waiting: “That bureaucracy was crazy sometimes,” says York Rieger. The commitment came in early 2022. The money still isn’t there, the Riegers say they had to pay upfront. But it will come. And with this money, they also want to reimburse the parents’ participation fees.

    Malwina Mikolajczyk (3rd from left) shows camp participants what wild herbs grow on their doorstep.

Malwina Mikolajczyk (3rd from left) shows camp participants what wild herbs grow on their doorstep.
Photo: Norbert Prumen

Malwina Mikolajczyk is kneeling in the grass about 50 meters from the rock. She’s an expert in wild herbs and aims to bring kids ages eight to 13 closer to what’s growing on their doorstep. She picks a ground ivy and lets the children smell it. The group continues, picking dandelions and other herbs. Then they sit on the beer benches, take a mortar and make some herbal salt. “The camp is about children discovering nature,” says Jessica Rieger.

Cell phones are taboo, children sleep in log cabins on the campsite and are out all day. There is only vegetarian food to eat, the children cook together, play board games and sit around the campfire. “For some, it was the first time they stayed away from home,” says Jessica Rieger. Some parents would not have allowed overnight stays with friends for a long time – for fear of the virus.

Corona has always hovered over the summer camp schedule: can it go as planned? Should they all be tested regularly? “We just put concerns aside and we did it,” says York Rieger. A whole box full of rapid tests was also ready – they no longer need them. “The easing came at the right time,” laughs Jessica Rieger.

The name “I’m POWERment” is a pun on the word “empowerment”, which in modern German describes strategies that enable a more self-determined life. Here, too, the camp should help. However, it is unlikely to happen again next year. “Then we would either have to get funding again or take more money from the parents,” says York Rieger, “but then we would exclude some children from the start.”

Maximilian thinks vacation time is great. “We hiked with llamas, you don’t normally do that. And I’ve already made a lot of new friends,” he says.

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