Saturday, 4 February 2012

Holding memories tight.

After reading so many posts about how amazing summer will be, I thought I'd do something a little different and share some memories of one very special summer I had.
(Warning- this is a very long post!)

In 2009, after my GCSE's I was fortunate enough to go on a missions trip as part of a team with my church. There were 10 of us in total, with 6 of us going to work on the Summer Camp. I went to be a junior leader on a summer camp for disadvantaged children. And it was awesome.

Our youth team for camp

My church has been linked with and visited the church in Russia for over 10 years and each yeah my church sends a team out there to help build and restore their church. The year I went was a little different as it was the first year we went to the summer camp.
We went for 10 days, and landed in St Petersburg, the church and our host family live in Kingisepp and the summer camp was on the beach on the Finnish Gulf.

(The summer camp was somewhere along the coast, I wish I could say where exactly. But I do know that we were very close to Ukraine)

We arrived in Kingisepp and was met by our host families. These were families in the church who volunteered to have us to stay whilst we were in Kingisepp. I was staying with my friend and our host family were so lovely. They were so generous, and welcoming - giving us everything and anything we could need. The first night we were there we spent hours looking through their photo albums. (Did you know in Kingisepp/Russia a couple who have just wed must climb a tree and tie a ribbon round it whilst still wearing their dress/tux) They fed us fit to burst. Although the food certainly wasn't to my taste, they kept trying to fatten me up. I used the phrase "pulne" a lot (which I think means full, but the children taught me that so who knows haha!)
We left for the camp not knowing what was ahead, turns out- it an adventure we'd never forget.
In Russia (at least where&when I went, I don't mean to generalise!) they hold the values that men do the labour work, and women do the cooking and cleaning.
So they were our roles, me and the 2 other girls were rotered into cooking the 6 meals a day (!) and cleaning the rest of the camp. Whilst the boys chopped fire wood and collected water from the sea.
The days we worked we had to be up at 7:00am to begin cooking the camp's breakfast, which consisted of porridge, then clear up and begin making elevenses which was some chocolate spread on bread, clearing it up, then dinner, which consisted of unknown 'meat' and rice. Cleared up that, then another snack of bread, cleared that up then cooked lunch, which was another kind of meat and rice. And about 10:00pm we gave the children a jelly sort of drink and biscuits- the perfect thing to send them hyper before bed!

Between all the cooking/cleaning up and on the days that we weren't working; we were free to spend time and play with the children. This was the best thing of the whole trip. Most of the children could say the basics of English, and I couldn't speak any Russian, so we spent a lot of time developing relationships by doing things we all enjoyed, doing hand gestures, and playing games. Card games in particular were very popular. It's amazing how close you can get with people by spending time together but not necessarily talking. I made some amazing friends who I'll always hold dear.
In particular I became very close to a group of a girls, they were all between 8-10yrs old and had a good grasp of English so we were able to have proper conversations and build relationships which will last forever.
We spent at least 10+ hours a day together so we were pretty much inseparable by the end of the week.

My girls :)

The summer camp was a Christian camp, so whilst we were leaders, the children spent the week playing, learning more about God and developing their relationships.
They had exercises on the beach every morning (they had to after all that food!) Bible studies every day, a chance to pray and worship, and lots of free time to play and swim in the sea. I spent a lot of time playing 'capture the flag' on the beach with them :) Every night we had a main meeting (in Russian) where we sang worship songs with a guitar (I still know the words, but no idea what they mean!) and then our team used to perform an English song for them with movements so we could teach them. They still remember the dances, I've had many videos sent to me with them showing us :)

Us teaching a song in the evening meeting :)

The children's freetime

After a week at the camp, we left before the children did as we had to catch a flight so we had the hard task of saying goodbye. It was one of the saddest thing's I've ever had to do. One of my friends (from the English team) performed 'Goodbye', and I can still feel the tears rolling down my cheeks, I have a video of it and you can hear my crying over her singing.
I promised to be best friends forever and ever with one very special little girl, Rita. And to this day we keep in contact and she is still a massive part of my life. I still have the teddy bear she gave me the day I left.

Rita and me <3

Dancing with my girl <3

We camped on the beach, with a forest on one side I was told there were bears! And the sea on the other. We had no running water, or electricity. We only had wood, fire and the sea.
The toilets were a hole in the ground with a bin liner round them, with so many bugs around.
I ate nothing but chocolate spread and cereal bars for the week. The food really didn't agree with me!
To wash we used the sea, which is not easy I will tell you now!

We spent the 10 days using hand gestures and acting out things, it really was hilarious.

I have so many stories of going to Russia, memories to last a lifetime.

I hope you enjoyed my trip down memory lane :) xxx


  1. what an amazing opportunity, it sounds like a really special trip. I could deal with the rest but definitely not the bears!

    1. Haha we didn't end up seeing any, but every night when I was in my tent I prayed that I wouldn't get eaten by one! xx

  2. nice blog!!!i'm following you!!!if you like mine, do the same!!
    bloglovin follower

  3. What an amazing chance you had, I would have loved to have done something like this...but whatever, it's never too late!

    1. It really was so amazing! It's definitely never too late! I'm planning on doing some more like this when I can actually afford to so that'll be in the future!

  4. Looks like you had an amazing time. I did something similar-ish recently too. Oh, by the way, I've nominated you for the cute blog award. You can check out my post with the rules and stuff on my blog! :)x

    1. Ah really? Would love to hear about it!

      Thank you so much!! :D xx

  5. awh this touched my heart <333333

  6. cute!!!

  7. sounds like an amazing experience! :)

  8. I have given you the versatile blogger award!

    1. Oh my goodness thank you so much! :) xx