September 5, 2023

ADRA Summer Games Inspire Children in Croatia

The event took place in one of the most economically disadvantaged regions of the country.

Ivana Sadek, Trans-European Division, and Adventist Review
Group photo of the children who participated in ADRA Croatia Summer Games. [Photos: Mia Šešerin, Anja Cikač and Ivana Sadek]

The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) Croatia recently hosted its third annual event, the BANOVANIJA23 Summer Games. The event took place in Banija, one of Croatia’s most economically disadvantaged regions.

Banija bore the brunt of a catastrophic earthquake in late 2020. Presently, many continue to grapple with the aftermath of the earthquake, enduring their third consecutive summer in temporary container accommodations. Banija lacks proper road infrastructure to connect with other villages, and it lacks reliable internet connection. As a result, children have fewer opportunities to interact with their peers beyond the confines of their school.

The impact of the Summer Games is evident in the growing interest from both children and parents. In the 2023 games held July 9-21, a total of 155 local children participated across two locations.

The initial week’s activities unfolded in Glina, a city deeply affected by the earthquake. The following week was hosted in the rural village of Mali Gradac, near Glina, catering to children from 20 surrounding villages. Notably, this year’s event welcomed an international contingent of volunteers coming from Bosnia, Slovenia, Albania, Ukraine, and Croatia. A group of 27 volunteers had the privilege of contributing to this event, creating memories children will treasure for life.

The Summer Games offered an array of activities for the children, ranging from sports and water games to creative workshops, face painting, personalized screen-printed t-shirts, and inspiring talks. Given that many of these youngsters experience diverse challenges at home and have limited access to positive role models, speakers were invited to share Christian values in relevant ways. Through these interactions, the children were introduced to values that are vital for their development into responsible and kind adults. These values included: recognising their individual talents; understanding the importance of choosing honesty, kindness, and perseverance; and embracing the transformative power of tolerance. A summary of the first week’s talks could be: “I was created with love. I am here to be kind and appreciate the good in others.” The second week could be summarised with the following sentence: “I am capable beyond belief!”

At the end of each Summer Games week, every child received a gift bag containing an inspirational book. This year, the older children were given Think Big by Ben Carson, a follow-up to last year’s Gifted Hands. “It warms our hearts to witness this year’s gift swiftly becoming a favorite book for some of the kids,” event organizer Ivana Sadek said.

“The reaction from both the children and their parents was beyond positive,” Sadek added. “Seeing them impatient for Summer Games Banovanija24 is priceless!” she said. “Realizing that we are making a difference and helping create happy memories for these children who face so many challenges is the greatest reward.”

The original version of this story was posted on the Trans-European Division news site.