Sophia’s experience in France

 

 

My daughter Sophia’s essay about her camp experience in France got published in the Inquirer over last October 17. To say that I am so proud is an understatement. Seeing her byline put me over the moon. She’s only 12.

 

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You may read Sophia’s full article and photo gallery in the Inquirer here.

 

If you recall from my Instagram, last August, I went to France. That trip wasn’t about me or my work. It was all for Sophia. She was chosen to participate in Copain du Monde, a 2-week camp in the Vosges department in the Lorraine region of France. The trip was sponsored by Secours Populaire Francais (SPF), a French organization that engages in humanitarian programs in France and in other countries in need. In the Philippines, SPF is sponsoring a Yolanda rehabilitation program in Busuanga in partnership with Mirasol Foundation where they rebuilt a school and assisted in some livelihood-generating programs.

Once a year, SPF hosts children from all over France and a few invited countries to participate in summer camps. This year, for the camp in Vosges, they invited children from Japan, Haiti, Nepal, Israel and the Philippines. Sophia was among the four Filipino children chosen by Mirasol Foundation to be sent as a delegate of the Philippines to France. They chose children from a list of nominees from another camp program that my daughter belongs to. While Sophia and the other delegates’ trip was fully sponsored, I presented myself as a “volunteer”. I paid my own way and SPF took care of my accommodations and food at camp. I was with Sophia and the kids for a week. Then I left her in France for the last week. The results of my journey are thousands of beautiful photos and a long video that I edited as their memento. You may view it here or scroll below.

 

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Copain du Monde camp was in a beautiful property in Xonrupt-Longermer, nestled in Vosges at the Lorraine region of France.

 

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After almost 24 hours of traveling, we arrived at Les Jonquilles in Xonrupt-Longemer. Sophia with Alexa Loste, wearing the sweatshirt that Soph designed for the Philippine delegation.

 

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The start of my camp mom duties, wearing the sweatshirt that Sophia designed — just so happy to be breathing fresh mountain air.

 

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The day the kids arrived at camp, they played ice breaker games.

 

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In a setting like this.

 

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Gerardmer is a small lake-side town in the mountains of Lorraine. History buffs would know that this was once the site of active battle during the Franco-Prussian War and World War 1.

 

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The war memorial in Gerardmer.

 

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Sophia’s favourite activity was rock climbing and rappelling.

 

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They went camping overnight two times in different locations. Camping, like in a tent. Here, Soph and Alexa were enjoying the stillness of Lac du Longemer.

 

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This was the hike to the campsite.

 

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We travelled to Paris by train We left Gerardmer at 4am, got to Paris by 9am, boarded the train again at 5pm, back to our chalet by 8pm.

 

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The main activity of Copain du Monde was a one-day trip to Paris to cebrate the 70th anniversary of Secours Populaire Francais. More on that in a separate blog.

 

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One rainy day, the kids took part in indoor activities. Alexa and Joaquin chose baking. They learned how to bake Mirabelle tarte. Mirabelle is a small seeded fruit, much like a peach or plum. It is lovely. And that pie was so easy to make. Now if I could please find some mirabelles here.

 

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This is Naomi. She and her family moved to France from Tibet three years ago.

 

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Even on rainy days, they had outdoor art activities.

 

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This is the bagtag of the Philippine delegation using Sophia’s design. We had Booths Republic make them for us.

 

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Lake Gerardmer

 

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We went kayaking.

 

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Soph and I enjoyed this kayaking experience. I used to hate kayaking in Canada (my brother took me on an extreme camping adventure where we had to kayak 5 hours to camp). This was so much fun.

 

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From Sophia’s article, “it was far from ordinary kayaking because this one had games. My favorite was “the boat is sinking.” The rules: Someone has to yell out a certain number, and in 10 seconds you must group yourselves together and hold on to each other’s boats using the side handles. Whoever gets left behind must stand on your kayak for three seconds—without falling. It was hilarious watching people tip their boats over, screaming their heads off.”

 

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Skipping stones. It’s universal.

 

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We made sure the kids heard Mass on a Sunday. We found this lovely little church on top of a hill in Gerardmer.

 

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After Mass, we walked back up to our lodge. This was the pretty view.

 

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At the cultural concert, the kids performed some songs and a dance. These are all in the video below.

 

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Our daily breakfast. Same every day. No plates. I thought I’d sworn off bread. But now I really miss it.

 

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We had the perfect weather in August. Temperatures ranged from 13 to 18 degrees. But it also got summer hot when the sun was out and there was no shade. Here, the kids did some art activities at the courtyard.

 

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The courtyard was also the only spot where there was wifi. So we (the adults) made it our little office. These are the adult leaders from the other delegations — Prizma from Nepal, Ibrahim from Israel and EJ Pepito from the Philippines.

 

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One afternoon in Gerardmer, we were given some free time. Soph and the kids sat under a tree waiting for our ride home. I went looking to buy some wifi load for this Orange mobile wifi that I bought. I ended up three blocks away. Then I saw the most amazing soft ice cream. I knew Soph loved soft ice cream so I bought her one. The sun was out and after 20 seconds the ice cream started to melt. So there I was, running like a mad woman with melting ice cream for my daughter. When it got to her, it was dripping with vanilla and chocolate melted ice cream. I told her, that is the love of a mother for her child. I looked like a crazy woman running through the narrow streets of Gerardmer holding that melting cone.

 

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They swam at an indoor heated pool.

 

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Most of the days were spent out playing in the beautiful field.

 

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The girls made up their own game and own rules. There was a language barrier. But kids just need to play and they totally understand each other.

 

There are more stories and photos. I’d like to share them in a separate blog entry. My daughter had a life-changing experience in France. She learned so much. Here is the link to her Inquirer article again.

In Sophia’s own words, “Copain du Monde changed my life in two weeks. We did not talk about politics or how to fix the world’s problems. But we were just happy to be with other children from different parts of the globe. It was a reminder that children are the future of the world, that in a loving and peaceful environment, children would become better citizens.”

 

Hope you enjoy this long video I made. You may skip past the halfway mark to see their performance.

 

 

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