Traditional Summer Camps

School camps in crisis.

Lucerne’s municipalities are organising fewer and fewer summer camps. There are many reasons for this. Kriens, for example, had to cancel two camps because too few leaders had contacted them.

Normally the community of Kriens runs three camps for children of primary school age during the summer holidays. But there is only one camp this year. As the responsible Kriens local councilor and financial director Franco Faé (CVP) explains, “despite intensive search” no suitable leaders could be found. Calls to parents, at the PH Luzern and in the newsletter “Kriens Info” unfortunately showed “only moderate success”. Only one pair of parents had registered. However, this was not enough to carry out the camps. “In the end, it is also a great responsibility. And many teachers, who often run such camps during their holidays, are “under enough pressure in today’s school life,” says Faé.

As a substitute, the community refers on its homepage to the summer camps of Pfadi, Blauring and Jungwacht. The winter camps are expected to take place as planned. On the part of the parents it was first feared, the summer camps had been canceled for financial reasons. According to Faé, this was not the case in Kriens. But: “The topic is well known in other communities. Often the camps are no longer carried out for reasons of economy. This is confirmed by Kaspar Bättig, Managing Director of the Lucerne Teachers’ Association. Where summer camps are organised by elementary schools, this offer is increasingly being cancelled, mainly because of the savings measures taken in recent years.

Emmen abolished summer camp four years ago

The municipality of Emmen, for example, has not offered summer camps since 2014. At that time, it was no longer possible to agree on compensation with the teachers (we reported). As a result, the private association “Zukunftsgestaltung Emmen” took over the organisation of the summer camp. According to the association’s homepage, no camps have been organised within this framework for two years. However, neither the association nor anyone from the community was reachable for a statement. The annual winter camps will continue to be organised by the municipality of Emmen.

Also Adligenswil does not offer any more camps. The situation in Horw, on the other hand, is somewhat different. Although the municipality has not organised any summer camps since last year, this is for another reason: “We have set up a holiday resort instead of the camp,” informs Titus Krummenacher. He is the head of Family Plus, the supplementary childcare centre in Horw. The community would spend even more money on the after-school care than on the camp. “With the camp, however, the offer was more limited, because we could only take children from fourth to sixth grade with us due to lack of space.

“The only camp was fully booked within a few days.”

With the crèche, all levels from kindergarten to sixth grade would now be covered. “In addition, the after-school care is offered for three weeks, the camp only lasted one week at a time,” says Krummenacher. The offer is very popular, this year the day nursery cares for more than 40 children. Faé also notes that the demand for care during the holiday season is high: “The only camp was fully booked within a few days”.

Ebikon cancelled camp due to too few registrations

Ebikon, on the other hand, had the opposite experience. The last holiday camp organised by the municipality in winter 2014 had to be cancelled because there were not enough registrations. Since then Ebikon no longer organises camps. Also in 2014, the Kantonsschule Luzern abolished the so-called “study trip” with the Matura classes in order to save money. The traditional summer camp for elementary schools in the city of Lucerne will also take place this year.

Whether for financial reasons, a lack of interest or a lack of leaders, many Lucerne municipalities are organising fewer or no holiday camps at all. On the other hand, the municipality of Horw is expanding its range of holiday care services. The teachers’ association is concerned about this development, especially if savings measures are the reason for the cuts. “If the municipal offers become more and more different due to the finances, this is at the expense of equal opportunities,” says Kaspar Bättig.

“We would very much like to continue the camps and are therefore planning to organise a round table for the 2019 summer camps.”

Kriens wants to examine new possibilities

At least in the municipality of Kriens, however, the range of holiday camps is to be expanded again. Franco Faé explains: “From our point of view, we would very much like to continue these camps, which are important for the young people. Therefore we plan to organize a round table for the summer camps in 2019”. New possibilities will be discussed together with the church, the Pfadi, the Jungwacht and the Blauring as well as with representatives of sports clubs and the elementary school. According to Faé, these camps will continue to be offered to “families who cannot afford a three-week trip to the USA”.

Summer camp at Harzer Waldwiese

Seven to 14 year olds, Josef and a forest cross

Father Ernst Wachter calls it a workshop service, with which the traditional summer camp for children ends in the almond wood near Elend (church district Halberstadt) in the presence of the parents. “I only take care of the sermon myself, children and staff take care of the decor, prayers and songs. With 53 children and 14 employees, the pastor moved for five days to a secluded meadow, where he is sometimes tied up by a witch during a night action. Or the participants find the forest course “quite creepy”.

The theologian, who in his short trousers can hardly be distinguished from his committed comrades-in-arms, calls his actions missionary. Half of the tent crews do not come from a Christian parental home, but like to travel with the other seven to 14 year olds from Elbingerode, Beneckenstein and Königshütte. “It was absolutely great”, Eddy Kastinius will say at the end and include the summer camp 2016 firmly in his holiday planning.

The summer camp has been pitching tents here since 2003. The forest administration supports the request as well as the hotel, which is a few forest minutes away. Cooking is no longer done over an open fire as in the early days, but on gas cookers, but 400 litres of water have to be dragged through the forest every day. No problem for the priest as well as the ten-kilometer mountain hike. “Here nobody is spared. Border experiences are important and valuable”.

What remained from the beginning, in spite of loose dealings with the priest and the 15- to 27-year-old employees, is a tight order between campfire and tents and the clear Christian orientation of the summer camp. “This year, everything revolves around the story of Joseph, quarrel and reconciliation. The tribes, called Rahel, Asenat, Tamar or Rebekka, stage plays, perform puppet shows, feel what it was like to survive in the desert, or reenact the encounter between Pharaoh and Joseph. “Last year, a co-worker was even baptized here for the forest service,” Father Wachter remembers a moving moment on the beautiful forest meadow.

He does not see himself as a “mastermind” at all. All this grew out of group work. “We prepare something in a large group, but then involve all the children in the work.” Thus at the side of Ernst Wachter there are high school graduates, a nurse, the theology student Christopher, the future landscape designer Christina or Luise, who took extra holidays for the summer camp days. One can experience how the gospel is brought close to the children there, whether during daily Bible fun or when a forest living room is created from moss, a tree cone game or a balancing path is built. A girl tribe from the camp took on a particularly important task: the children made the large cross from wood, hay and flowers, which was erected for the natural worship service.

Even though the summer camp ended on Sunday, the tents did not break down the church there. The parish Werben (church district Stendal) took over the baton on the forest meadow in the Oberharz for the fourth time. The biblical summer camp becomes almost a home game for Jan Foit, a youth advisor from the Old Mark. He was once vicar of Ernst Wachter in Elbingerode and at the Wernigeröder Stadtfeld-Gymnasium religion teacher.