Interview: Supporting the children who need it most
The following is from the April 24-May 7 print edition of the BBJ:
With a name that translates roughly as ‘Camp Courage’, Bátor Tábor provides seriously ill children with a life-changing break. Director of development Kata Tóth tells the Budapest Business Journal more about the camp.
Q: When was Bátor Tábor founded? Who founded it and why?
A: Bátor Tábor organized its first therapeutic camp in 2001. A group of pediatric oncologists visited a similar camp in Ireland and were amazed by the immense effect it had on the campers. It was just a week and it changed lives. Returning home these oncologists, our founders, all had the same vision: Let’s make something like this in Hungary. When a child is diagnosed with a serious illness, beside the physical challenge he or she faces, there is a serious psychological challenge, a trauma that the whole family has to cope with. Fifteen years ago in Hungary the necessity of providing mental therapy for seriously ill people was emphasized by only a few medical professionals. This area has improved immensely, and we believe that our founders and Bátor Tábor did a great deal for this progress.
Q: How many children do you deal with a year?
A: In 2001 we received 60 children, this year it is going to be more than 1,000 campers. They are seriously ill children, their siblings, their parents and also families who lost their child due to a serious disease. We run our programs almost all year round, and this year we are proud to say that we will go beyond the gates of our campsite and organize short therapeutic programs in hospitals and other institutions.
Q: What programs do you organize for children?
A: We create a physically and mentally safe surrounding for our campers in which they face a great variety of challenges. The programs we offer (high-rope courses, archery, horse-riding, drama, music and more) are not only about entertainment but also about finding skills believed to be lost or non-existent. Quite understandably, seriously ill children are often over-protected. They are told not to do this and not to do that, and these limitations constantly remind them of their illness. They find themselves incapable and different from their peers. At camp we guarantee they can forget about the illness, be kids again and reach tremendous moments of success. We are doing continuous research with Yale University and the findings of this research show that the therapy we provide positively influences the self-esteem, peer relations and perception of the diseases of our campers in the long-term. It might just be a week, but it is indeed a life-changing experience. And when you read the letters of the parents, this is when you realize how true this is.
Q: Do you accept volunteers?
A: We run our camp programs with the help of carefully selected volunteers every year. Being a volunteer at camp is a great experience; the return rate is about 70%. We are honored to receive more than 1,000 applications every year. Besides the camp programs, we have a major volunteer program, called Élménykülönítmény, in which individual runners and teams agree to run for Bátor Tábor at races and raise funds for our programs. The program is very popular among companies: In the past five years we had already more than 1,200 runners and many of them started to run just because of Bátor Tábor.
Q: Who are your sponsors/supporters?
A: Participation at camp is completely free of charge. We cover our costs from voluntary corporate and individual donations. At this time of year our focus is the 1% campaign. Last year more than 16,000 taxpayers offered us 1% of their tax, which makes us very grateful, and is proof that it is worthwhile to operate transparently. The 1% tax allocation is a fast an easy way of giving, and as it is tax money, it costs nothing to the taxpayers. Surprisingly, about 50% of taxpayers still do not offer their 1% to any charity, so there is room for improvement.
Q: How can businesses help you?
A: I am not going to surprise you. Businesses can help us with donations. All our programs are completely free of charge, and to run them well, we rely on the trust of a number of companies and individuals. As Bátor Tábor is a member of a global association, the Serious Fun Children’s Network, our financial reports are public and Deloitte audits us every year. We are proud to have a long history of excellent corporate partnership programs. We insist on one thing: We ask for meaningful volunteer work only. Instead of asking a company to whitewash the walls at camp for the hundredth time, we ask them to help us in developing our website (in the case of an IT company), or if they are in HR, they can help us select the best staff. Our motto is: help us with what you are best at.
To donate or find out more about the camp, see: www.batortabor.hu/eng
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