Holiday camps, which were first created in 19th century Switzerland, quickly developed in France. A complement to the traditional education system, they form part of the social measures carried out by banks. Banque Nationale pour le Commerce et l’Industrie (BNCI), an ancestor of BNP Paribas, was particularly dedicated to the idea, with numerous holiday centres.
Holiday camps were initially set up for sanitary and educational purposes. Alarmed by the fragile health of underprivileged children in Zurich, Swiss pastor Hermann Walter Bion decided to take 68 children to stay with farmers in the canton of Appenzell in 1876. Accompanied by eight school teachers, the young people benefited from fresh country air, lessons and religious instruction. In France, the first school camps were launched in 1883 at the instigation of Edmond Cottinet, administrator of the educational fund for Paris’ 9th arrondissement. Youth club-type catholic camps were also offered in order to compensate for the secular education provided by schools. In the 1930s, the organisation of holiday camps was regulated. The teachers were trained and the State intervened in the way in which the camps were run: on 17 June 1938, a law was passed regarding the protection of children outside their parents’ home.
BNCI’s holiday camps
Holiday centres developed rapidly after the First World War, reaching their peak between 1930 and 1960. Banking establishments offered holidays to the children of their agents through their works councils, responsible for managing their logistics and budget. The Banque Nationale pour le Commerce et de l’Industrie (BNCI) boasted a particularly varied selection: in Soulac-sur-Mer, Saint-Pierre Quiberon, Les Rosaires, Dol de Bretagne, Pont-l’Abbé, Aurillac, Vercel, Murat and Saint-Saturnin, seaside, countryside and mountain camps were organised for children between the ages of 5 and 15. In 1950, a “Children’s Home”, a health centre for fragile children authorised by the social security system, opened in Divonne-les-Bains near Lake Geneva.
The little campers got their fill of nature and leisure activities. And already, the bank was increasing the variety of the entertainment on offer: beach huts, fêtes, bathing areas, encounters with farm animals, etc. Supported by new educational methods, the holiday camp also incorporated educational psychology. This education complemented that which was taught in schools.
A constant evolution
In 1955, over a million children went on a holiday camp in France. In 1958, 1738 children benefited from the BNCI’s holiday camps. The tradition continued as the decades went by but the programmes of activities expanded: winter sports, horse riding, kayaking, motocross and science activities were added to the traditional bike rides, hikes and swimming. Cinema, dance and circus lessons were also offered to suit modern interests.
From 1970, BNP‘s works council added language study holidays in the United Kingdom and Germany to its catalogue. By decree, the term “holiday camp” was replaced by “holiday centre” in 1973. The residences became considerably more comfortable and the destinations more varied.
Today BNP Paribas’ Central Works Council offers a choice of destinations, near and far. In 2015, 3814 children participated in an organised holiday in France and 2272 went abroad. The safety measures and staff training have considerably increased, and these stays provide wonderful memories and nurture the participants’ spirit of discovery. From 2013-14, 1.3 million children benefited from them in France.
SEE THE PHOTO GALLERY – Memories of summer camp at château de Landifer (France) …
Several administrative departments withdrew to château de Landifer during the Second World War, but many Paribas employees also sent their children there for summer camp! Paribas had made this pretty Loire valley estate a colonie de vacances from the 1940s until 1983.