One of rather popular ways of spare time activities is orienteering. Society “OK “Arona”” in cooperation with ten schools implements the project “Youth and seniors spending their free time in movement” within the framework of the Swiss-Latvian Cooperation Programme. The objective of the project is to educate in basics of orienteering and provide opportunities to children, youth and seniors from Madona, Cesvaine and Ergli counties to exercise open-air sportive activities in vicinity of place of their residence. Favourable response is great – more than 450 children participated in orienteering activities.
There are children, who cannot afford to travel regularly to sports classes and orienteering events taking place far away from their homes, this is where local governments come to assist by providing transportation. Some children are not eager to get involved in “big” sports, instead, they would rather enjoy various physical exercises for their own amusement. Orienteering is a free time activity that suits almost everyone – a couple of dozen seniors actively share their experience with the young.
This project is just one among more than sixty projects that are being implemented by support of the Swiss Confederation and Latvia.
Environment has been created in local governments, where inhabitants can spend their free time in active open-air recreational activities. Children, youth and seniors learned and gained skills necessary for orienteering and have developed a new habit – to spend their leisure time actively in open air. Skills gained will also be of benefit further on in life to be able to navigate in nature and in the city. Approximately 500 people involved in the project have completed the training programme “ABC of orienteering”.
Ten groups of persons subject to training were formed. Classes took place twice a week: initially, theoretical knowledge in classrooms was gained in map-reading, use of compass and on rules of orienteering competitions. Thereafter, upon making of orienteering maps, practical exercises took place in nature, which not only allowed to test gained theoretical knowledge in the field, but also to learn practical navigation in nature (orienteering) by terrain, sun, trees, pathways, etc.
Classes were lead by lecturers, who have experience in work with children and youth and who themselves are actively practising orienteering.
At the end of the project, part of those, who have completed training, participated in two-day sports and recreation camp in Vestiena, where final competition with night orienteering took place on August 3 – 4, 2011. Competition during the camp took place among mixed teams composed of children and seniors.
This allowed participants of the project to measure their strength with those, who are practicing orienteering for a longer time, to mingle with steady orienteering sportmen, make new contacts. Seniors, who had quit orienteering before for various reasons, could now return to this environment, so well known to them, yet with new knowledge. Youngsters, who have already achieved remarkable success in orienteering sports, also participated in this project. Girts Leontjevs from Vestiena practices orienteering sports for nine years already and in 2011 he was awarded 6th place in the World Schools' Championship in Orienteering, whereas Elina Svilpe from Ergli practices orienteering for eight years and presently is multiple champion in the Baltics, seven times the champion of Latvia in long distance, medium distance, sprint and in marathon.
Upon completion of the award ceremony, youngsters had disco dances, it was also possible to watch the film on the big screen about the competitions that took place during the day. Activities included boat rides, basket ball, and darts. Teachers were invited to discuss future cooperation activities. For many children this was their first camping experience, as for instance, for girls from Kalsnava and Marciena. Children from Kusa had prepared quite a heartfelt show by singing a song about orienteering: “.. we are running, searching for a control point, we just need one of this kind”.
Mr. Gunars Ikaunieks works with youth for already 20 years. “The camp is just like a small driver for youth to come to orienteering sports”, notes Gunars “because presently it's just like this, that they just sit by their computers, and that's about it. The sport of orienteering is for masses, it is an active spending of leisure time – there is no other sport like this. Each and everyone can find something useful for themselves. For seniors this is health, feeling of belonging”.
Gunars Ikaunieks tells a story of a woman, who walks every control point with her dog – this is a unique feeling of belonging, adventure. There are, of course, situations, when one says “Why me, I am going to be retired in a year”. A saying well fits here “If you lead, people will follow”. A child often makes parents “follow” - parents mostly take their children to orienteering events by their own private cars, as the project has encouraged people spending time in nature, running. It is clear that parental support will continue, as there is nothing more precious than being healthy and having learned a lot. A child comes for a class, dad comes too “to take a run” for a couple of times. “Big sports aim at achieving results”, indicates Gunars, “yet, here – anyone can participate. The achieved results are not a priority, more important is to get as many as possible people involved”. A child learns to plan his or her time exactly with the help of orienteering. A feeling of responsibility is developed, as one has to participate in competitions. A child is very happy about the fact that he or she doesn't get lost or confused, but can tackle the situation, when alone and in the middle of the forest. Children also acquire new skills by participating in making of the routes. Such skills are quite useful in other situations in life, as well. Thus, rather unpleasant and hard to understand are those times, when parents bring a doctor's note and tell their children “it's wet today outside, don't go!”, so a child may skip an orienteering class. The sport of orienteering strengthens health, mood and spirit, which can be handy also in practicing other sports.