Our clinic has been a supporter of Bátor Tábor, an activity camp for children suffering from cancer, for years. One of our assistants participated in one of the organization's camps as a volunteer in July. In our interview with her, we learn what motivated her, what her favorite memory is, and why volunteering made her feel good.
When did you first hear about Bátor Tábor?
I came into contact with the organization through our former colleague Adri Giák. She took part in the camp along with her daughter as a chaperone, and she talked a lot about how good the team and the mood was, how much she got out of the camp, and how many impulses she received with which she was better able to work through her situation. After that, RMC began supporting Bátor Tábor and I could hardly wait to get the chance to go and work as an assistant.
How did you manage to balance the camp with your work as an RMC assistant?
Participation in the prep camp, in addition to all the other preparations, took a total of 10 working days, which is quite a lot. But to my great joy, RMC offered us the chance to participate in the event on paid leave, without giving up our vacation days, and I was delighted to have this opportunity.
What areas did you work in? What kind of tasks did you have?
From the beginning, I was exclusively interested in going into the field of oncology, and there was the opportunity to sign up for a camp for foreigners, which is how I got into the adolescent camp that dealt with Polish oncological patients. There, I worked in the healthcare team as a "Health Buddy", where the fun was not the only thing in focus. Of course, we tried to provide the care as playfully as possible. Besides medication treatments, infusions, injections and taking blood, we also cared for minor camp injuries and cases of nausea.
Who were you working with?
I worked in a nine-member health care team. Three of us assisted three experienced doctors, two very creative dieticians and a physiotherapist. One of the experienced doctors was Dr Gábor Benyó, a clinical oncologist and hematologist, from whom one could learn a great deal professionally, and who is personally a very open and friendly person who finds his place straight away, even among the teenagers. The other doctor was a tough Polish woman who spoke a lot about the differences between Hungarian and Polish protocol. Both of them have been coming to Bátor Tábor for many years. Neither myself nor the other assistant from Budapest had experience in oncology when we arrived, but that didn't cause any problems thanks to our professional backgrounds and training.
What does the construction of the camp look like? What kinds of programs are there and how do they assemble the teams?
The campers stay in little houses, and they aren't separated by age. During the day's programs, however, they are assigned into color groups where they're grouped by age and gender. In this way, they can get to know a lot of new people in the houses and in the groups. The assignment of the programs is very fixed and well organized. The 66 children got around 80 volunteers, who all work to make sure everything runs smoothly. The program offering is very broad: In addition to music, theater and dress-up programs, there was also a crafts section, fishing, canoeing, horseback riding, archery, and a ropes course for the really brave. As well as in the health care room, we had to be constantly present at the riding area, the ropes course and the achery range, because there was the risk of injury there.
You said that you'd long desired to participate at Bátor Tábor as a volunteer. What motivated you?
Oncology is a new area for me professionally, and while it's true that I could only get to know a small part of it since we were only dealing with children at a camp, I still learned and developed a lot. Also, it is always a challenge for me and it fills me with joy to help, and to ease the situation of those who are having difficulties. I have a really good time clowning around and communicating with youngsters. The kids at the camp grew up a long time ago, they've struggled with a lot and survived, they have very grown-up thoughts.
Can you give an example?
"We're here now, we've got to experience this, it's really great fun. You just watch me, I'm going to play." That's what one lad said to me, for example, and then climbed up a 10 meter pole, and then jumped down and kicked a ball in mid air. I, on the other hand, am clinging on at six meters, my legs are trembling and I don't dare to move. This perspective on life taught me a lot.
Do you have a favorite memory? Or was that it the one you just mentioned?
That was one of them. There was another patient who had lost feeling in his leg who also climbed up a 10 meter pole, but he could only do it with a painkiller. He said he wanted to do it and overcome everything. He showed us that no matter what, some things you've got to live with and understand, and in doing so, keep going instead of sitting in your room and saying, "Sorry, I just can't do it."
And another thing. When they arrive, their mobile phones are taken away from them. It aroused a lot of outrage at the beginning, but by the end of the week, 17 year old kids were saying that they'd completely forgotten about their phones and didn't even miss them. I think that's a big deal nowadays.
You mentioned the good mood. How did that manifest itself?
It's a really strange feeling to get to know people who have nothing to do with health care, sicknesses or children in their civilian lives, but who voluntarily give up their free time to come here just because they'd like to help. The kind of morale and work ethic there was unbelievable! Everyone did their thing happily and with spirit. We were already up at 7 in the morning and at 2 am we were still awake, but no one complained of being tired. At most, we would have a good laugh that we wouldn't sleep more than 4 hours, and carry on.
And then you realize these people simply enjoy giving, I've never experienced this feeling anywhere, it's incredible! I couldn’t say who gets more out of a camp like this, the campers or the volunteers. Everyone shared in the electricity that we created there together. Everyone should try it, really!