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A celebration of friendship and solidarity. In Germany the international camp for the disabled

08/07/2019 

This article was originally published on www.orderofmalta.int.

An assortment of multi-coloured T-shirts, a Babel of languages, laughter, prayers and dancing, where  “every day is a celebration”, a celebration of friendship and solidarity.  This is the Order of Malta’s International Summer Camp 2019 for the disabled and their volunteer friends coming from 24 countries.

Organized this year by the German association in the foothills of the Zugspitze in Bavaria, for a week the camp will host some 500 people between staff, volunteers and the disabled aged between 18 and 35 years. It was these people who, in the splendid setting of the Benedictine monastery of Ettal, welcomed with their smiles and their overwhelming vitality Grand Master  Fra’ Giacomo Dalla Torre del Tempio di Sanguinetto for a three-day visit, accompanied by the Grand Chancellor, Albrecht Boeselager, the Grand Hospitaller, Dominique de La Rochefoucauld-Montbel and the President of the German Association, Erich Lobkowicz.

During the various social gatherings, from  meals in the canteen to the numerous outdoor activities, and not least meditation and prayer, the Grand Master expressed his sincere gratitude and appreciation for the immense dedication and organizational efforts of the Order’s young members. “Try to preserve the joy that fills your hearts during these days and take it with you in everyday life,” Fra’ Giacomo said during the mass celebrated in the church of St. Kajetan in Munich, attended by all the Malta Camp participants as well as the Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann, who had enthusiastically supported this event.

After the mass, Chloe, a Dutch girl in a wheelchair, repeated over and over again, almost fearing she wouldn’t experience it again: “It’s the greatest week in the year!”. And her twenty-year-old friend Reinier accompanying her explained: “You only understand it when you come here:  you think you’re here to help them, but then you realise that it’s also they who help us”.   It is precisely this “concept of reciprocity that makes this experience unique which, together with faith, constitutes the added value” of the Order’s summer camp, as Fra’ Roberto, the spiritual guide of the Italian team, pointed out.

This success of this formula is also proved by the numbers:  launched in 1983 with some sixty participants, the International Summer Camp now boasts over 500 participants, including 180 disabled guests, and 40,000 hours of voluntary work, involving constant daily care and attention by the young volunteers to ensure the disabled persons’ physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing.

The next international camp will be hosted by Italy, in Ciampino just outside Rome, in August 2020.

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