As a result of this, on the 13th of August 1925, instead of old sea dogs, 80 minors from Bizkaia passed through its doors to begin a three-month stay with the aim of going back home healthier and stronger.
These were tough times, child malnutrition was rampant and the white plague, also known as tuberculosis, raged among the most deprived classes. The Children’s Camp was a response to this tough reality, a refuge where children could get stronger.
They were little boys and girls who had no names at first. The blonde boy at the next desk was number “68” and the girl from over there, number “44”. It would be a few days before they ceased to be a number and became Feliciano, a skinny lad from La Arboleda, and Felisa, a girl with miliary tuberculosis from Sopuerta: ideal playmates.
It was here that most of them discovered the pleasure of showering each day, oral hygiene and sunbathing. Special importance was given to the latter, so much so, that in view of the grey local climate, in 1928 an artificial beach was created that consisted of a room fitted out with quartz lamps that emitted ultraviolet rays.
Good food, contact with nature and exposure to the sun (to the real thing and artificial rays) worked wonders. Poking about in the files in the Camp records, you can find cases of children who managed to put on almost 10 kilos, which gives an idea of just how tough their daily lives were.
However the Children’s Camp was not intended to be a sanatorium, nor a school or a refuge. Every three months, a new group of children had to make the house their very own, and during this period of time everything in the house was theirs. It was their home.
A home in which people like Don Robustiano (teacher and commander of the children’s brigades) Sister Carmen (a nurse who devoted 55 years of her life to the Camp) or the enthusiastic doctor Mendieta, among many others, were responsible for making sure that the children were provided with that all-important human warmth.
Fortunately, over the decades, society and its needs in Bizkaia were changing. Child malnutrition became a thing of the past, boys and girls in Bizkaia no longer needed their health to be reinforced and in 1982 the Children’s Camp began a new stage with the creation of the Pedernales School Experimentation Centre: environmental education.
The main aim is to offer children a physical and pedagogical environment which would favour their exposure to nature so that they could raise their environmental awareness, consciousness and knowledge, and encourage a change of attitude and individual and collective action to protect the environment. The fact that the Children’s Camp was located right in the heart of Urdaibai, a beautiful natural area declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO, clearly adds something extra.
Having established this new direction, in 1983 the Udalekuak programme was also launched, that is, the Summer Holiday Camps, in order to reinforce values based on coexistence through training, sports and leisure activities with nature as the cornerstone.
The excellent results of the educational programmes aimed at schools in Bizkaia, in which during their stay at the Holiday camp, students develop their own environmental project, mark out the way forward. A way forward that evolves and splits off into different paths to meet the needs and challenges of modern society. Paths like BBK Jagon, a project that started up in 2015 to provide the adults of the future with tools to tackle bullying at school and online.
In the same year the Paris Agreement for the global fight against climate change was adopted, as well as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) of the United Nations which covered the economic, social and environmental dimensions of development. In this context, the Holiday Camp is starting a new phase to adapt to meet one of the great challenges and needs of this century: sustainability and the fight against climate change.