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Camp COOL

Camp Cool is a coachingsweek for youngsters with a chronic condition. The idea was developed based upon the knowledge that youngsters and adolescents with a chronic condition have a lack of skills that healthy youngsters pick up naturally.

Because it is always present, the condition controls the mindset and, as a result, the behavior. Especially in the time of transition to adult healthcare, gaps in ‘normal’ developmental tasks are revealed.

Camp COOL intends to offer activities that trigger a process of increasing self-awareness.

In order to achieve this, Camp COOL facilitates the development of social and emotional intelligence. Creativity is used to stimulate this process. As a result, the youngster learns to take into account his condition when considering his possibilities.

Camp COOL is a week full of challenges.

Within the activities, the youngsters are

  • Challenged to work on their leadership capacities and sense of responsibility
  • Challenged to discover what they truly want, and to think creatively
  • Challenged to work together and fulfill tasks, to discover what they are capable of.
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COOL stands for:
Communication, Encountering,
Personal Growth and Fun

These elements are incorporated firmly throughout the week. The activities however, also stimulate participants to:

Be creative

Trust

Build relationships

Adapt

Take responsibility

Take on challenges 

Other important elements

In designing CC, we made a conscious choice within the activities offered not to talk about the youngsters’ ‘condition’. They are approached based on who they are. The good thing about this approach is that the youngsters, as they work on assignments and knowing they will be spending time together, are free to talk about their condition or their experiences in the hospital. They will almost certainly do this. From there, conversation and discussion will start to happen, which is an ideal compare experiences. Without imposed topics of conversation, but following from the needs of the youngsters themselves.

Another important element is how a buddy takes responsibility for a participant. Buddies are aged 18-24, participants 15-18. Buddies are approachable for the participants. They help whenever needed, answer questions and make sure the participant feels comfortable and safe.

One more important point: the buddies as a group are responsible for the choices to be made. House-rules and etiquette are decided on by the group, and the group is responsible for making sure they are heeded.

Camp COOL – the week

Buddy weekend

The buddies arrive two days before the participants. Those days are meant for (re)acquaintance and to lay the foundation for a leading group that works together as a team.

The program starts on the second day. Buddies are informed on the theme of the program, and given the opportunity to fill in the details themselves. Together, they think of ways to include the participants in the program.

The general rules are discussed and decided on:

  • Dividing the participants into groups
  • Appointing two chief buddies
  • Making a scheme for kitchen chores
  • House rules, group rules and rules of behavior

Chief buddies

Two chief buddies are appointed to make decisions. They can ask the super chief buddies for help if needed.

Super chief buddies – Supervision

During the week, two members of the project group (the organization) are present in the background. They watch over the activities, sometimes participating, but without disturbing any processes. The super chief buddies pay attention to everything in order to review interaction and to check if all the participants are applying themselves.

A buddy meeting is held at the same time every day, usually at 8PM. Buddies and super chief buddies gather to discuss the past day. To talk about the fun things and the things that need attention. The super chief buddies will always make sure the buddies remain independent in their ability to solve problems.

Arrival of the participants

Monday at noon the participants arrive, usually accompanied by their parents. The buddies welcome their participant, show them around and make sure he or she feels comfortable.

The parents are welcomed as well with a talk, a cup of coffee and a sandwich.

After half an hour the parents leave, and the week starts.

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The program

The program of 2012 is used here as an example.

The group is divided into three teams who will work together during the week.

Each team receives three tasks: for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. The tasks lead to both a group product and an individual goal.

The tasks involve increasingly widening ‘circles of concern’:

  • The participant as a person
  • A smaller close circle (friends)
  • The extended Camp COOL group

At the end of each week:

  • Each team member has created a self-portrait, using paint, clay, wood, images, sound, music, photography etc.
  • Each team has created a short movie, radio report or stage play. For example the subject ‘friendship’. What would you like to show? How will you design it?
  • Each team has designed and performed an evening program for the entire group, which touches on important subjects. Guests are put on stand-by during this event. They can, however, be called forward to become part of the program.

Additionally, every day each team assigns:

  • Two members for the kitchen group. In cooperation with the cook, they choose, cook and serve a meal. The rules: healthy, tasty and convenient to cook at home.
  • Two members for program discussion: What will the team be doing tomorrow? Should there be a consultation with another team? Do we need to talk with the cooks in regard to the evening program?

Workshop leaders

Assistants and teachers are present for each part. They receive instructions from Camp COOL staff.

  • A cook
  • A visual artist, to help participants choose a medium for the self-portrait
  • A drama teacher, using drama to get certain subjects up for discussion
  • A coach, offering support in putting together an evening program

Thursday evening – open door event

Traditionally, guests are invited to visit Camp COOL on Thursday night; especially parents are welcome.

Doctors, nurses and other caregivers are invited to meet their patients in another role: a youngster working on his or her future. Members of the Van Eeghen family, who host the camp, join in the fun as well. Sponsors are offered an inside view.

Usually the evening attracts about twenty visitors. They participate in the evening program or get to see a presentation on the week.

Thursday night – skit night

After the open evening, there is often an excited atmosphere. Something has been created and performed in a short timeframe. This feeling leads up to the skit night, a farewell party at which sketches and music are performed. It is organized and attended only by the youngsters.

Friday

Friday morning is the time of departure. Because most parents cannot attend Thursday night, because of the travel distance, a small exposition is held. Part of this is a short movie which was made during the week. Sometimes a final (musical) workshop is organized.

Foundation

To achieve the Camp COOLweek can take place every year a foundation has been sat up. Members of the foundation work volonteerly to get the funding and keep in touch with every stakeholder.

Goal for the coming years is to adapt the Camp COOLconcept for youngsters with other chronical illnesses than  kidney failure.

Also gaining more awareness in society for the efforts this growing group of youngster stand for, considers the foundation as a task.

In 2016 Camp COOL will be held for the 10th time. A great oppurtunity for getting more attention in the form of a conference day, to be held in novembre.