Environmental camp is place of unforgettable memories for youth

Organised by World Vision’s Kakheti Area Development Programme (ADP), the camp gave students the chance to take part in sessions about ecology and carry out different activities to protect the environment.

“Georgia is facing many environmental problems similar to most developing countries and the low environmental awareness among the population is causing many problems such as pollution, poorly or unmanaged waste causing water pollution, as well as deforestation caused by individual timber cuts and administered timber cuts for export”, says Eka Imerlishvili, World Vision Kakheti ADP Manager.

Negative impacts on the environment are little researched or documented in Georgia, but the signs and symptoms are becoming clearer for people to see – especially for those families affected by flooding as a result of deforestation, etc.

“After returning from camp I decided that I will become a member of the Kakheti ADP club and will participate in every event arranged by this programme. Now I will take care of the environment and will never litter [pollute]”, says Luka, a 15-year-old student from Gremi village who attended the camp after winning a competition at school.

“Camp returned me to my childhood; here I am the happiest person in the world. I am comparing two different lives; one I was living before in my village and one in this camp. I see that camp is much better. At night I am thinking to myself, that all these activities will finish soon and I will begin the same life and it makes me sad”, said Luka.

Life for 15-year-old Luka is characterised by tiring work and poverty. Luka has been helping his family financially since he was 13 by helping his neighbours and doing odd jobs. At home, Luka helps his mother to take care of the vineyard and garden.

“Sometimes I was so tired that I could not come home from the vineyard and I ended up sleeping there at night”, he recalls.

When Luka found out that he would be attending the camp he was ecstatic. “I was happy because I had never left my village and had never been at a camp. I was also nervous that I was leaving my family and my little brother”, says Luka, who will never regret the time spent in the camp, where he met new friends, enjoyed the summer time and returned to a carefree childhood.

As well as having fun and exploring the beautiful nature of the Bakuriani resort, children also received information about the environment. Each day, the students learned about important environmental problems such as air, water and land pollution in sessions conducted by the Caucasus Environmental NGO Network (CENN); a leading environmental NGO in the Caucasus with offices in Tbilisi, Yerevan (Armenia) and Baku (Azerbaijan). The students received green canvas tote bags and some visuals by CENN to take home as a reminder to make good decisions for the environment. Students also learned the basics of project design and management, and will have the opportunity to write projects and receive funding from World Vision’s Kakheti ADP towards improving the ecological situation in their villages.

“First of all, the youth deepened their knowledge about the environment and became more aware of humans\' effect on eco systems. Also youth from different regions met each other and built valuable friendships and they have also learnt about independence and taking care of themselves”, says Eka Imerlishvili World Vision Kakheti ADP Manager.

The camp wasn’t all work and no play. During the camp, the students participated in a football tournament, went on a hike, and enjoyed making new friends through various games and winning points for their respective teams. Evenings were also a busy time. One of the highlights of the camp evening programme was a fashion show where the students put their creativity on display by making outfits fit for the runway using only black and clear plastic sheeting.

The week went by quickly, but for the camp participants the memories will last a lifetime. ”The camp provided the unique opportunity for many young people from remote villages to experience life in a different way where social and economic hardships they face daily, were put aside for a week and were not bothering them on a daily basis”, says Imerlishvili.

For many children at the camp, the trip to Bakuriani was their first trip outside their communities, without parents, without any household chores....“, she adds.

A few of the children openly shared that they felt they were given the "right" to enjoy their youth to the fullest in a camp environment where studying and having fun was all they had to do.