Cancer in childhood is rare - however, approximately 2000 children and teenagers are yearly diagnosed with a malignant disease in Germany. But their chances for cure are very high - if they are treated in specialized pediatric oncology centres according to the most recent state of the art in pediatric oncology. Unfortunately, the treatment strenuous and does not leave the children unmarked. Severe physical or emotional wounds may remain. Some children have to live with visible scares after the tumour operation or the loss of an extremity. Thus it is understandable that seriously ill children can easily take on special roles in their families. They often lack self-confidence and tend to avoid decision making.
One important component in overcoming the mental scares of the illness is a stay in one of the camps for children with cancer where the programme has been tailored to their needs. In addition to providing fun outdoor experiences, such as wall-climbing, hiking, canoeing etc., the camp focuses on group education and therapeutic recreation. It gives every participant the unique opportunity to share and exchange his or her experience with others. Here, they can be pulled out of their situation of helplessness and passivity. The aim of therapeutic recreation is to rediscover and reinforce the strengths and abilities already existing in each child, in order to improve their self-esteem and self-confidence. Fears are recognized as normal, and self-doubt is experienced as something that can be overcome. In this concept, the group is very important, because only in the group the given problems can be solved. This process demands the active participation and responsibility of each individual. The climbing wall and the high-ropes are particular challenges to every one.
The German Childhood Cancer Foundation is happy to have found a perfect area for camps like this - a wooded site with log cabins near the city of Heidelberg. After complete reconstruction of the site with special consideration to accessibility for the physically handicapped, the place is ideally suitable for such holiday camps. If needed, quick and easy access to the Pediatric Oncology Unit of the University Hospital of Heidelberg is guaranteed.
The Waldpiraten-Camp is the first and only holiday camp for children with cancer in Germany and other German speaking countries. It has been modelled according to camps for children with cancer in North America and Ireland.