YMCA Pilgrim. Barnaul, Russia
“In the year of 1999 we came up with the idea of a linguistic camp. Saying linguistic we mean we tried to work in the ‘English speaking’ atmosphere morning till evening. We were not a YMCA back then; it was no earlier than 2001 that we joined the association.
We hold 2 to 4 sessions per summer (10 to 21 days each), and a session every school break, that is one session in spring, winter and fall (fall and spring sessions are ‘russian speaking sessions’). Summer and winter sessions usually have in between 50 and 100 kids. Spring and fall are smaller in number. Our target group is kids in the age of 6 to 17.
We were focusing on the learning outcome for quite some time, but later on we realized that, however important that might have been, it wasn’t our goal. Our main goal is creating an atmosphere in which both campers and leaders grow and develop personally whilst being in a group. It is very important for us that every child/teenager feels comfortable expressing themselves, their wishes/needs/talents etc.
Usually every session has its own theme (eg. ‘Mass media session’ or ‘fairy tale session’) and every day in a session has its own topic as well. And we try to make every day/session unlike the ones that happened before. (That is probably one of the reasons why a significant number of our campers keep on coming over and over again)”
Olga Pronina, the director
Hello, everyone! We are glad to welcome you on the summer session of Pilgrim!
I heard these words, standing in a circle of people of different ages, backgrounds and aspirations. I heard these words, standing in a circle in a blue T-shirt, which told everyone that I am among the leaders. That was one of my the first days in «Pilgrim». Being a youth worker along the line of other young and inspired people, 80% of which have been to the camp thousands of times before, I was scared…scared to do something wrong, scared to fail, scared to stand out. It was my first experience working in the camp.
The camp, which afterwards became my home, which let me, empowered me to grow and be still growing, to find friends, to travel and to get to know other Y’s all over the world.
The camp, which than I got to know, was started as a linguistic camp, but then was focused on building an atmosphere to enable personal growth while being in a group, focused on letting everyone in the camp express themselves, their wishes, needs, talents, etc.
The camp, which celebrates 15-years anniversary this year, has impact on lives of a huge amount of young people, including mine.
The camp, which welcomes children 6 to 7 times a year on its sessions – different from one another, English or Russian speaking to have fun, grow, learn things from each other.
The camp that changed my life.
The YMCA camp
Let us try and see what the most interesting points are in a camp day. We have what we call ‘hobby clubs’, those are something like interest groups/workshops about an hour/hour and a half long of various different activities that we offer, starting with sports(football, basketball, volleyball etc.) to arts and crafts and table games.
Then comes what we call ‘English club’ 1/1,5 hour of actually learning. It is definitely informal learning. What we do is we have some kind of testing procedure in the first day of the session where we put our campers into different groups according to the level of knowledge the English language. Some groups have real debates and discussions, whereas others just do the basic steps.
In the late afternoon we do the ‘fresh air activities’, those are most of the times outdoor games (such as capture the flag games, ‘wars’ etc.). The evening activity is usually some sort of creative work on the topic of the day in smaller groups (like a theatre sketch). We end up every day with a ‘candle talk’ in small groups where kids share how they felt about the day, things they liked, disliked and perhaps the highlights of the day. Each ‘candle talk’ is finished up with a short story on the values of importance.
There is a couple of other things that are very important to mention when talking about our camp. First of all ‘Flag ups’ and ‘Flag downs’. We start every day in a camp with a flag up ceremony, which is a tradition of 14 years now, it is held in complete silence – a sign of respect to the camp and its traditions; and every day is finished up with a flag down ceremony. The candidates for the ceremony are chosen by the leaders and those are usually kids, who stood out in a way during the day/days.
Another thing that needs to be mentioned is the Pilgrims. Pilgrims are campers chosen by the ‘Council of the Eldest’ (consisting of all the leaders+camp coordinator and the already existing pilgrims); they are kids who are respected by both leaders and other campers, who take the responsibilities and who carry the camp values.
This place is simply amazing, but to really understand what we mean by this one needs to come and experience it