In 1997 the German Order of Malta volunteers organised the first holiday camp for a group of Lebanese guests suffering from serious mental and physical disabilities. 18 years later, six different delegations from the Order of Malta run camps throughout the summer in coordination with the Lebanese Order of Malta volunteers.
A typical day-to-day timetable would start at bright and early at 7am, when the guests will be washed, dressed and taken down to breakfast. After some chilling-out time on the terrace, probably to some cool tunes, there might be a group activity along the lines of a dressing up competition, a theatre production, a cookery session, fashion show or some inventive arts and crafts! Lunch would be followed by maybe a walk to the local tavern, or another on-site activity – croquet tournaments, beauty sessions or themed parties being favourites. There will be cups of tea and most probably cake before Mass, and then it’s time for more delicious Lebanese cuisine at supper. Before bed everyone on camp meets up to sing and dance, before the guests are taken to bed at around 7pm. At this point the fun is most definitely not over… ‘Almaza’ is a particularly popular Lebanese beer on camp, sometimes accompanied by a campfire or the strumming of a guitar. This time is for the volunteers to chill out and meet other volunteers from all over the world, as this is an activity opened internationally.
For the guests, during the camps, it is a chance for them to experience the basic yet essential bonds of friendship and affection, and receive unconditional acceptance, joy and love. Many guests, even those unable to communicate effectively, will still remember the care and affection that they received in the months and years to come, and this stays with them and gives them the strength to bare the harsh conditions they live in day-to-day. Many spend the year waiting for the ‘Summer Camps’.
The weekend in between the Camps is a chance for the volunteers to see Lebanon – to relax and visit the sites. With our wonderful Lebanese hosts we will wander from beaches to bars and from Byblos to Beirut, invariably finding the time to learn more about this amazing country while sampling ice cream and working on our suntans.