The golden rucksack summer camp

The golden rucksack: helping children transform challenges into qualities
By Stany Paquet and Marguy Krier

This year’s international universal education inspired summer camp for children in Belgium was enigmatically called: “The golden rucksack”. Many people asked: that rucksack, what is inside it and what is it all about?

Well, camp participants soon found out it was filled with qualities and challenges. What qualities? Those qualities we all have inside us, our heart’s dispositions. And what challenges? Those challenges that we all face when we don’t find life so easy, when we behave in ways that we don’t want to or regret. But, the good news was, those challenges could be transformed into qualities. They become opportunities for growth in life, allowing us to develop the best in us.
Children participating learned that sometimes we are not aware of the whole treasure of qualities that we dispose of, realising we can bring happiness to those around us and to ourselves. For two days we were in quest of that internal treasure.

Then, when it came to applying the transformation of challenges, we drew on Pam Cayton’s 5 R’s (which were handily translated into E’s for German speakers). They provided a very useful instrument that children could relate to:

1-    Remember, harmful actions create unhappiness for ourselves and those around us. And, if we do something harmful, remember: within ourselves we do have ‘a wealth of peace, loving kindness and wisdom that we can call upon to learn and make amends’.

2-    Regret is gathering all our courage to acknowledge the harmful action and sincerely feel sorry.

3-    We then think of an effective Remedy that allows us to repair the damage.

4-    We then make an internal Resolution to improve by visualising another way of responding to the circumstances should they arise again.

5-    We then Rejoice that we have learned something and transformed it into something beneficial.

As Pam Cayton says in her book Compassion in Education, “the message to children is: be happy and celebrate your courage and growing mindfulness”. To consolidate this learning, children had to initiate a ‘clown character’ into the five Rs outlined above.

As in past summer camps, this year we also had the precious help of some fairy tale characters, which came to life from a story that we had invented on the ‘golden rucksack’ theme. For example, children met the needs of a sweet fairy by helping humankind, and (who could have imagined it?!) they even managed to help a witch change for the better. Last but not least, with the help of all this discovered wisdom, the youngest of the three princes became king and everything went well. Not only in the fairy tale, in our summer camp too.

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Meditation, motivation, yoga, creative workshops, songs, dance, activities in nature, a gratitude book, all this and even more supported this week that we shared together. All 29 children participating were fully present, involved in the story and in themselves.

This would have not been possible without our big team of helpers who again volunteered to cook, survey, participate in the activities with kids, and more. They were all available throughout the camp, opening their hearths and offering their time for free.

We feel deeply grateful for having the opportunity to participate in all this, and hope it will inspire others to take forward more universal education inspired camps.