Indian summer camp in Prague


Many children in the Czech Republic spend at least part of their summer holidays in a summer camp. These camps can have different themes -depending on a child's hobby. In this week's Magazine Daniela Lazarova visited a very special camp here in Prague.

You wouldn't believe it by the sound of things but like all others this edition of Magazine comes to you from Prague in the Czech Republic. I am standing in front of a blazing bonfire in 35 degrees heat and dancing around me are members of an Indian tribe. All around them are children of all ages -children with bandaged heads, arms in plaster and hospital attire. Most are hopping around in time to the drums, their faces brightly painted and wearing huge grins. Ivan Kysela of the goodwill association Interactive House has spent weeks organizing the event:

"Right now we are standing in the camp of the Motol tribe, Motol being the biggest hospital in the Czech Republic. This is our fifth Indian Holiday programme. It is a motivation programme for sick children, to help them to forget about their illness and be happy and more active. The programme is different every day of the month. We have different guests, some of them are Indians, some are cowboys, some bring along horses and we have a Pony Express. One of our special guests from Country Radio is singer Karel Zich who's due to be here on Thursday to lead the singing and there are many, many other interesting things."

Three giant tepees dominate the lawn outside Prague's biggest hospital and it is not only the grounds that are unrecognizable. Some of the hospital's leading paediatricians are dressed up as Indians -much to the children's delight -having picked names such as Sitting Bull to try to minimize the need for activity in the heat of the sun. The Indian dress, beads and feathers look a bit incongruous with their glasses and mobiles but then present day Indians often present a similar picture. Now and then a beeper goes off and one of the Indians steals off to take care of an emergency. The kids, engaged in a sun dance - asking for the blazing heat to continue through the summer - are too busy to notice.

"The children are to collect three stones: the stone of happiness, the stone of curiosity and the stone of wisdom. Each of these stones has a different colour and those who manage to collect all three will get a special Indian diploma on the last day of the Indian holidays."

Do they have to search for them or compete for them?

"They have to compete for them. For instance the stone of curiosity is given for a word game - they have to guess a certain secret word - if they guess right they win the stone of curiosity. There is a different word for every day. They can win the stone of happiness by making someone else happy. Like if they paint a nice picture and we display it in the camp and it makes people happy to look at it -then they deserve their stone of happiness. And finally the most difficult to collect is the stone of wisdom where they must do three fairly difficult tasks. For instance one is giving thanks to someone - like thanking Nature for something or thanking your Mother for caring about you. We try to get them to think about things. It is the stone of wisdom."

The Indian Summer Camp at Motol Hospital lasts every afternoon through the month of June. Organized by the goodwill association Interactive House it depends on dozens of volunteers who are happy to offer their services year after year. Sponsors have also been generous and annually attend the opening of the Indian summer camp, even though it does not get a great amount of publicity.

Also parents whose children have enjoyed the events as patients often come back in future years to repay a debt of gratitude. Ivan Kysela says that anyone who has ever been or had a child in hospital knows that the benefits of such an enterprise are invaluable.

"The benefit is positive thinking, breaking barriers between ill and healthy people...For families this is a great help because if the parents come to visit a child regularly over a long period of time after a few weeks they may find it difficult to know what to talk about. So in the month of June they can just come here and enjoy this together."

So it's less like a hospital. Does the Motol Hospital management welcome this? Are they cooperative?

"Yes, they welcome it because it is probably the biggest volunteer activity in the country. As I said this hospital is the biggest in the Czech Republic and the children's section is the second biggest in the world."

Are you going to spread out?

"We'll see. We would like to spread out but Motol is our base because this is a hospital for children from all over the Czech Republic and for foreign children as well. So we are doing this for all children."