Campers learning folk dancing.
Sőrve Estonian Children's Summer Camp was set up thanks to the vision and foresight of some of the earliest families that migrated to Australia in the 1940s. It is now the Sydney Estonian Parents and Friends Association Incorporation. Its goal is to maintain and promote Estonian culture and customs among young people of an Estonian background in Australia.
While Sőrve was originally intended for Estonian children between the ages of eight and 18, changing demographics and interests have seen it evolve into a camp for the whole family. Sőrve attracts families from all around Australia and around the world. We are proud to say we have third and fourth generation Estonian families and children attending camp, each of whom value and appreciate the Sőrve experience.
The camp has been held annually at its current location, Point Wolstoncroft on Lake Macquarie, for more than 50 consecutive years. This is a record in the history of NSW Sport and Recreation Centres. Apart from Scouts and Girl Guides, we are not aware of any other community group that has a similar annual cultural experience. Past Sőrve camp leaders include Edgar Aavik, Artur Tammisto, Edgar Siimpoeg, Ingomar Netliv, Rein Simmul, Madis Alvre, Peter Maasepp and more recently, Kati Koreneff.
Operating as a not-for-profit community-based entity, successful running of the camp relies on our dedicated volunteers, particularly the leadership group, who devote their time, energy and resources in roles ranging from administration, fundraising, media, recruitment and leadership. We actively encourage all members of the Estonian community to contribute where they can to carry on the magic of Sőrve.
As documented in our constitution, our objectives are to:
Maintain and promote Estonian culture, language, customs, traditions and community among young people of an Estonian background in Australia.
Develop social, organising, leadership and teamwork skills amongst young people of an Estonian background in Australia.
Identify and train future potential leaders of the Estonian community in Australia.
Create an environment for families to participate in Estonian community, cultural and sporting activities.
Encourage the promotion of good citizenship and the values of tolerance and cultural diversity.
Organise an annual summer camp for young people of an Estonian background in Australia, which camp shall be known as "Sőrve"Undertake any activities consistent with the above objects.
Language and culture
Until around 25 years ago, speaking Estonian at Sőrve was a prerequisite. As families became integrated into Australian society and Estonian was not always spoken at home, we became realistically aware of the fact that Sőrve attendees spend 51 weeks of the year conducting their daily activities in English within the wider Australian community. In the interests of the long-term viability of the camp, a decision was taken to not maintain the requirement to speak Estonian, but to actively encourage the speaking and learning of Estonian phrases.
We have a number of campers fluent in Estonian, whose knowledge we avidly draw upon, but it is impossible to teach Estonian in any great depth to campers in a single week of the year. Every effort is made to incorporate the language and culture into the running of the camp, for example, in our daily timetable, sports groups and hut names, in addition to a number of popular activities such as Estonian singing, folk dancing and cooking. Children are actively encouraged to speak Estonian during the course of camp.
The recent introduction of the Blue Room Sponsorship offers Estonian nationals living in Australia the opportunity to be included in the Sőrve community and provides us with valuable cultural interaction and the opportunity to update our traditions.
Pricing and annual cost
For as little as $75 per day for a school-aged child, Sőrve provides a week full of activities, meals and accommodation. In addition to the cultural and sporting aspects, Sőrve teaches children valuable life lessons such as the importance of sharing and team work. Furthermore, speaking as a parent of two campers, everyone arrives home exhausted and happy, already looking forward to next year's camp.
The fee paid to NSW Sport and Recreation for this year's camp was approximately $80,000. Inflation as well as upgrades to the Pt Wolstoncroft facilities continue to raise the cost of the camp. Approximately $17,000 a year in subsidies, running and administrative costs is not covered by registration fees.
We have numerous social and fundraising events throughout the year to help us manage the cost of the camp as well as to re-connect with the Sőrve community outside of the week at camp, and we ask the community to assist where they can. Our next fundraising event will be Friday night drinks on 13 September at Sydney Estonian House.
The future of Sőrve
Sőrve remains a unique and important aspect of the culture of Estonians in Australia and we regularly hear senior members of the community comment that Sőrve is vital to the future of the Estonian community in Australia. But the survival of any minority organisation over a long period of time requires foresight, innovation and leadership.
Increasing the number of campers is crucial for Sőrve to be able to continue into the future and we are continually looking at ways to address this issue. The current influx of younger Estonians moving to Australia is very exciting and we are openly striving to include this group, in addition to re-engaging with our past campers and their families. If you know of people of Estonian heritage with children in the age range of 2-18, please talk to them to bring their children to camp.
One week at Sőrve connects families and children with their Estonian heritage and helps create relationships that would not have otherwise existed. These bonds will help maintain a dynamic Estonian community in Australia. Finally, Sőrve continues to provide younger members of the Estonian community invaluable opportunities to exercise leadership skills at all levels – something we are very proud of.
End note: This year's dates for Sőrve are slightly different, commencing Sunday 5 January (arrival after lunch from 1pm onwards) through to Sunday 12 January. All current information is available at our web address www.sorve.org.au
Sőrve Sőbrad President,