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Summer Boot Camp

Photographer: Diego Azubel


Running in its fifth year, the youth military summer camp first opened in 2008, when it only had a handful of students signed up. Today the camp caters to over 2,000 kids a year over a two month period. The camp is ran mainly by former military, police, and fire fighters, looking after kids ranging from 6 to 17 years of age, with 70 per cent being boys and 30 per cent girls.


The camp's average child is what it is known as the 'little emperor:' an overprotected kid, product of the one child policy who most likely does not know how to make his/her own bed. The vast majority of the parents enrolling their children for the one to four week program do so not just as a different option for kids to spend their summer vacations, but because they hope that a taste of army life and strict discipline will strengthen their character, teach them to be able to do things for themselves, less dependent on their parents or grandparents, and maybe even make them braver. Enrollment to the camp costs between 2,580 yuan (316 euro) and 9,280 yuan (1,140 euro) depending on the length of stay. The shortest program of 7 days costs 2,580 yuan (316 euro). Then there is a 12 days program for 4,680 yuan (575 euro), 20 days for 6,580 yuan (808 euro) and the longer 28 days program for 9,280 yuan (1,140 euro).


An average day at the camp starts before 07:00am, when they must all brush their teeth, make their beds, air their tents by opening up the windows, and get themselves into their uniforms ready for the day's tasks. Depending on the program they are on, some will learn how to do their laundry, sit still at attention, march, go on treks, climb over an obstacles course, learn self-defense, survival skills, or go to the kitchen to learn how to make dumplings. Those students enrolled in the longer programs will at some point learn how to handle weapons, wear camouflage paint on their faces, and even go to a firing range to shoot not real bullets but air rifles. The atmosphere at the camp is one of camaraderie, and proof of that is that about 30 per cent of the students return the following year.