Although a Frenchman, an Irish woman and a German may sound like the beginning of a pub joke, this time it meant PerMondo conducting an interesting interview with Rebecca Egan and Olivier Dreneau from L’Envol, a SeriousFun camp in France.
You can listen to the video below, but if you find the thought of not being able to see our beautiful faces somewhat unbearable, you can read the transcription of the interview instead.
Enjoy and don’t forget to follow our channel on YouTube!
For the eager readers amongst you, here’s the transcript…
Sabrina: Good morning, Rebecca. Good morning, Olivier. Thanks for being here today. My name is Sabrina and I wanted to ask you a couple of questions about your collaboration with PerMondo – the initiative for free translations for NGOs – and I basically just wanted to know a little bit more about you and the organisation you work for. So, what exactly is it that l’Envol, or SeriousFun Children’s Network, does? And what is your specific role as, in your case [Olivier], Camp Director, or in your case [Rebecca], Assistant Camp Director?
Olivier: Good morning. I’m Olivier; I’m the Camp Director of l’Envol. L’Envol is an association which welcomes children with different diseases, and so we offer a week of recreative therapy for families and children.
Rebecca: And l’Envol is part of a global network of camps, and that’s where SeriousFun comes in: We have over 30 programmes all over the world, and l’Envol is one of those programmes. This summer, we’ll have four sessions where we welcome children with serious illnesses from France for a five-day residential programme, based on a philosophy of therapeutic recreation, which means we give children an opportunity to feel a challenge, to get success, to reflect and to discover new strengths about themselves.
Olivier: We show them during this week what they can do.
Sabrina: So do you conduct interviews with the children to see who is accepted onto the programme?
Rebecca: Yes. We have a recruitment process: We have a medical team – a doctor and a nurse – that forms part of our l’Envol team, and they are charged with the camp recruitment process. There are specific criteria for which children can come and participate in our programme.
Sabrina: Could you give us an example of what kind of children can use this programme?
Rebecca: Yes. This summer, we have haematology, oncology, HIV and other blood illnesses that are readily welcomed.
Olivier: And sickle cell [anaemia].
Sabrina: So do you split the illnesses and the countries? How do you process? Because I guess there are other programmes running in other places of the world, so do you have different illnesses in different places, or how do you separate?
Rebecca: This year, for l’Envol, we’ll have all French children. Illness groups are decided based on the needs of the country. Our medical committee will review which are the highest illness groups in France and that’ll help to inform the type of children we serve in the summer programme.
Sabrina: What are you aiming to achieve through the camps?
Rebecca: Our goal – and there’s a lot of research that’s been done across the network and also at l’Envol – is to increase resilience, confidence and self-esteem, to give children coping skills, to realise above all that they’re children (they’re not just sick children; they’re children) and to give them a chance to form new relationships with children who are going through the same experience as them. And we do this through a number of different activities; so, this summer we have climbing, we have arts and crafts, we have theatre, music, and all of these activities are based around this therapeutic recreation model. So, we give children an opportunity to try a challenge and to experience success and then to reflect on the fact that they can, in fact, do that. Every activity is adapted to meet the needs of the children that we serve.
Olivier: And every activity is accessible for all the children.
Sabrina: So, there’s no activity that’s exclusively for certain groups?
Rebecca: No. The activities have been adapted so that every child that comes to camp can participate.
Sabrina: And are they the same age? Because I think I’ve read that it’s from a very young age until about 16 or 17. Is that right? How do you group them together for the activities?
Olivier: We’ll have three weeks with a group of children from 7 to 12, and one week with a group of 13 to 17 year olds.
Sabrina: So, how long are you going to be having camps this summer altogether?
Rebecca: We start on 13 July and we finish on 20 August. We operate with volunteers, and so we’ll have a 2-day training programme before each session to make sure that volunteers understand our policies, procedures and philosophy.
Sabrina: Of course. And what background do the volunteers have?
Olivier: We have a lot of different profiles, so we can have economists, nursery minders etc. We have a lot of different profiles.
Sabrina: That’s very interesting. A bunch of different people, I guess.
Rebecca: Exactly. I think it makes it for a really dynamic volunteer team when you have people from all walks of life. And that’s the idea of the training: that you don’t have to have a childcare background; just empathy, compassion and an ability to work with children.
Sabrina: That’s really nice. And what about the countries that you’re based in? Could you tell me what countries you have camps in?
Rebecca: Sure. We have 11 camps operating in the US, we have 7 in Europe, and we have 7 in Africa and camps in Latin America and the Caribbean. And so we have other 30 programmes in total at the moment. Paul Newman, the actor and philanthropist, was our founder, and the first camp was founded in Connecticut in the United States in 1988. L’Envol is, in fact, one of the oldest camps in the network. Since then, it’s just grown exponentially year on year.
Sabrina: And in what places in Europe do you have camps, apart from Paris?
Olivier: Italy, Ireland, Hungary…
Rebecca: We have… We don’t have one in Spain…
Sabrina: Ahh you should have one in Spain!
Rebecca: We should! We do welcome Spanish children to the programme that’s in Ireland. So, they come for an 8-day summer programme in Ireland. There’s a programme in the UK, too.
Sabrina: So, if you put together children from all sorts of places, have you faced any communication barriers?
Rebecca: Well, at l’Envol we have all French-speaking children and French volunteers, but in the summer we’ll welcome children from many different European countries at our camp in Ireland, and they will be accompanied by an interpreter. And then local volunteers are trained in how to work with an interpreter. So, a group of 10 Polish children, for example, will be accompanied by 3 Polish interpreters who will chaperone them on the aeroplane and make sure that they can fully understand the programme.
Sabrina: And are the interpreters also volunteers?
Rebecca: They’re all volunteers, yes.
Sabrina: That’s really good! And regarding the activities that the children do, could you tell us whether there’s a highlight for them? Is there one activity that they really, really love? Or tell us a little bit about the activities that you do at the camps.
Olivier: We do climbing, archery, we have a swimming pool, we do arts and crafts etc.
Rebecca: I think the swimming activity is a good one to mention, especially here at l’Envol, to explain how it’s adapted: We make sure that the water is heated to 33 degrees, because we welcome children with sickle cell disease, and those children are very sensitive to cold temperatures. So, by changing the temperature of the water, we can make sure that they can participate in this activity at camp. And our team has seen over the years that these are children who would never have been able to have the opportunity to be in a swimming pool before; it would always have been a no-go area. So, by making that simple change, we achieve our goal of therapeutic recreation for that group of children.
Sabrina: That’s really great, because you have to adapt to the different situations of the children involved. And how many people work at the camps? Including volunteer staff, interpreters and coordinators etc.?
Olivier: In a week, we have about 36 children and almost the same number of adults.
Sabrina: And the adults are the volunteers that help out?
Olivier: So, at the camp we have volunteers, we have the programme team and we also have a medical team with nurses and medical staff.
Rebecca: We have full-time staff, our permanent staff: We have three on the programme team who work all year round; I work just for the summer. And then we have two medical staff, a doctor and a nurse, who work all year round as well. And the rest of our team are volunteers.
Sabrina: And what about the parents of the children? Do they also stay at the camps or is it really just for children?
Olivier: It’s really just for children.
Sabrina: Do you think that’s important, that it’s just children and not their parents?
Rebecca: Well, across the network there are lots of camps that do family weekends, for example, and that’s something that l’Envol will look towards in the future. But for the time being, we’re focusing on our children-only programmes, but it’s definitely something that we understand is important.
Olivier: And we focus on the children’s independence during the weeks, so that’s why it’s very important.
Rebecca: And we see a lot of advantages for having a children-only camp, as well, because for many parents this is the first time that they get a break. Often when we get feedback, the parents say, “This is the first time in years that I’ve had more than a day where I haven’t had to look after medical needs or not have to worry about my child”, so in a way it has a double effect.
Sabrina: That’s really good. And what about the translations that PerMondo has carried out for you? What did you need them for?
Rebecca: We’re currently going through a standards testing with our network this year, which is just to make sure that we’re running a really safe, secure programme that’s in line with the vision of SeriousFun.
Olivier: It’s called the International Camping Evaluation, and with this evaluation we receive an accreditation. So, for us it means that we’ll be providing a high-quality programme.
Rebecca: And obviously we operate in French here, so all of our documents, manuals, policies and procedures are in French. However, the International Camping Evaluation is in English, so we need to provide all of our documents in English to our visitors who will come during one of the camp sessions. So, it is a mountain of work and I think that without a resource like PerMondo, I’m not too sure how we would have managed.
Sabrina: How did you do it before? Or have you ever had a similar situation?
Rebecca: I think this is a question that has started to come up more and more at SeriousFun, as camps have started to grow outside of English-speaking countries and have gone through this process. And at l’Envol, this is maybe the first time that we’ve had to start doing this because, as I mentioned, the majority of our camps are in the States, so this isn’t something that we’ve really had to do in the past. So, this is the first time we’ve gone through this translation process, and so far PerMondo’s service has been really invaluable.
Olivier: Thank you very much!
Sabrina: You’re welcome! And now I would like you to give a message to the volunteers because, of course, the volunteers are going to be watching this little video, and you can tell them exactly what it has meant for you and how you would like to say thank-you.
Olivier: Thank you very much all of you for your huge work! It’s allowed us to climb a mountain and now we are almost at the top, so thank you very much!
Rebecca: I would say the same: Thank you so much! It has obviously helped us in our administrative tasks, but it will also have a huge impact on this programme, because what you have fundamentally done is help us to ensure that the children that we welcome to camp this summer are all going to be safe and secure. And you’re helping us to achieve our mission, so thank you very much!
Sabrina: That’s great! Well then, thank you very much for your time and for making this little video and making it possible. Thank you for everything, and of course we will keep in touch with you, and if you need any more translations or if we can help you out with anything else, even into other languages apart from French, we would be happy to help out wherever we can.
Rebecca: Brilliant! Thank you so much!
Olivier: Merci beaucoup!
Rebecca: Merci beaucoup!