The International alumni DofE GAHA Camp in Poděbrady, Czech Republic

The International alumni DofE GAHA Camp in Poděbrady, Czech Republic


12. August 2016

The International GAHA Camp for Gold DofE Award Holders Alumni was held in Poděbrady, Czech Republic during the first week of August. The aim of the GAHA Camp is to continue with personal development of the participants even after completing the three official levels of the award and also to develop international networks of DofE Alumni. This year, the camp hosted young people from Malta, Finland, Poland, Turkey and Czech Republic. The structure of the camp copied the structure of the DofE award; there were activities from the four core areas: skill development, sport, volunteering and an expedition.

The first day’s purpose was mainly to introduce the participants to each other. Interactive ice breaking activities helped us to achieve this. There was also a presentation of the news from the International DofE Office. The director of the Czech National Office, Tomáš Vokáč welcomed the participants in the name of the Czech DofE branch. Although the camp was fully organized by the alumni, the National Office provided support to it. After the morning program the group headed towards Osečko, walking seven kilometres along the river. The Miller family prepared a BBQ lunch for us in their garden. The participants were amazed by some of the Czech specialities like cakes, that Mrs. Millerová prepared for them, but also by the outstanding hospitality of the whole family to whom we are all grateful.

In the afternoon we went for a sight-seeing trip to Poděbrady, where we admired the colonnade, parks, mineral springs and also an outdoor jazz concert, which was happening as part of the summer spa season. Whilst watching a water fountain, our group was approached by the mythic White Lady, who transported us through time into a world where legends, fairy tales and history all merged in one.

On Tuesday we all went to Prague, where the Czech participants showed the most prominent monuments to their international colleagues. These included the Prague Castle, Charles Bridge and the Wenceslas and Old Town Squares. There was of course also time for tasting session of Czech specialities, mostly beer and then for shopping souvenirs. After arriving back to Poděbrady the group fulfilled their volunteering activity. Flags were made to commemorate the camp in the Youth Centre once the camp will be over. In the evening there was a music session with guitars, base and a violin and then a group karaoke session.

On the third day of the camp the group went to Pec pod Sněžkou to fulfil the sports activity. Due to high popularity of the cableway we ascended half of the way up in the cabins, up to Růžová hora from which we climbed up to the top of the mountain during persistent rain and strong wind. It was only around five degree Celsia at the top. Although many people would find our journey easy, it was rather challenging for some of the participants, as they were not prepared for such extreme weather conditions in the middle of the summer. Given the strong wind and heavy rain we begun descending only after a very short break on the top. The slipper rocky path was hard to walk on, which on the other hand had one major advantage, that the slower part of our group could not separate from the faster one, since we all walked really slowly. In the evening we visited a summer outdoor cinema in the castle gardens to see the Kolja Oscar-winning movie.

Thursday’s morning was given to skill development. Participants could choose between jewellery making from beads or from archery. In the meantime, the Turkish group cooked a delicious lunch for us, which was something like the famous Czech “lečo”, only a bit spicier. After lunch we all left for Hutá Hora, where we visited the ossuary, the Church of St. Jacob and the monumental temple of St. Barbara that was admired by foreigners and home-participants alike. We finished our city tour by visiting the medieval silver mines, where we were surprised by the technology of the time, but mostly by the tough working conditions of the medieval miners, who had to work un unlit and very narrow corridors. The bus took us directly to the forest restaurant Obora near Poděbrady, where there was a nice dinner awaiting us. After such a long and full day of activities we all appreciated the nice forest environments where we regained energy.

On Friday we left Poděbrady before eight in the morning, going to Semnihorky in the Czech Paradise. After three changes of trains we made in to the beautiful location, where we came to compete our expedition. Since the weather wasn’t very bright either, some of the participants started asking why is it always so hot when we go to cities and so cold and rainy when we go to nature. Despite the weather everyone was in great mood and strongly determined to hike in the Paradise. We were surprised by the amount of pictures and selfies some of the participants made, it however affirmed that we chose a truly beautiful location for the hike. We ate lunch in a tavern below the Valdštejn castle, which many of us also visited. The weather was no better in the afternoon, which made us decide to return to Poděbrady instead of sleeping in a camp. 

On Saturday some of us already experienced the nervousness of the approaching closing ceremony, where each national group had to perform a short show that would characterize their country. The Maltese also managed to prepare very professional refreshments for the ceremony during the morning. The ceremony was opened by Mr. Langr, the Mayor of Poděbrady city. Thanks to him and the monumental appearance of the town hall the ceremony was truly special. We could admire each other’s presenation after two brief speeches of the Mayor and Mrs. Píšová, who is the former director of the DDM Poděbrady and who established the DofE programme in the Youth Club back in 2000 when it was still called EDIE. The Maltese group started the performances, showing the vibrant life and beauty of their island, then the Polish girls invited us to Poland by showing its extraordinary natural richness, Turkish group performed a traditional dance and the Finnish participant, Kristina concluded the sequence by her presentation in which she disproved some of the stereotypes about her nation. After words of thanks, awarding of the diplomas and a group picture we all enjoyed the delicious refreshments. The last evening was given to planning future meetings and events and we also enjoyed some Turkish-style disco dances.

Given the positive feedback of the participants, nice comments of those who cooperated with us, the appreciation of those who came to see the ceremony and our very positive impressions, we conclude that the event was extraordinarily satisfying and that it fulfilled all of its aims. It managed to facilitate personal growth through activities even after completing all the certificate levels and it help to reinforce the international DofE Alumni networks. Now we are all impatiently waiting to hear which country will be the next to organize the camp.

And finally, we would like to express our sincere thanks to the Youth Club DDM Poděbrady, which kindly borrowed us their building for the camp and which assisted us througout the week. We also thank to Poděbrady city for their patrongae and to the Czech National DofE Office for their support.

You can watch the video from our camp here.

Anežka Svobodová

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