BBK Urdaibai Centre
The building that houses the BBK Urdaibai Centre was originally intended to alleviate the needs of fishermen with a long life spent at sea. However, when in 1924 the Bilbao Municipal Savings Bank purchased it from the ship-owner, Ramón de la Sota, the prestigious architect Ricardo Bastida received the commission to reconvert it into a children’s camp, the Our Lady of Begoña Children’s Camp.

History

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.

Today

With a new name, BBK Urdaibai Centre (2018), and a new project, BBK Klima, it is starting up in 2020 right in the middle of the declaration of the climate emergency by numerous institutions from all over the world.

BBK Klima has been set up to make contributions linking local to global concerns, and global to local concerns, and its core idea and main aim is to raise awareness about the SDG through the creation of a logic based on argument and an active leisure and education project. The Project is based on scientific knowledge about the subject of climate change and the SDG with the aim of ensuring that this can be conveyed to the general public in an attractive, effective manner. The project will also contribute to the sustainable development of the RBU and links up with the other activities that are carried out at the BBK Urdaibai Centre.

In this context, in 2020 the leisure activities that have traditionally been carried out are being re-orientated to make the SDG related to the environmental component (and especially to climate change) the cornerstone of the workshops being run in the BBK Udalekuak programme, stressing the importance of the environment, with climate change and its consequences as the central theme.

Since that distant 13th of August 1925, there have been thousands of children who have enjoyed this really special place. And thousands of others will do so in the future. Julián Zugazagoitia already said in “Pedernales”, the book-diary in which he depicted his experiences at the Children’s Camp: “Living is creating memories for our old age. It’s really important for these memories to be of such quality, that our old age can be happy”.