This, is for the camp counsellors who stay up late at night comforting a camper who misses home; this is for the camp director who juggles the needs of their staff, campers, parents, and families above their own; this is for the activity instructor who notices the shy campers, the ones who don’t quite fit in, the ones who act out because they don’t know how else to express themselves, the ones who need a little extra patience and creativity; this is for the nurses who listen and ease pain; this is for the mother who waves goodbye at the start of camp, excited for a break, with tears in her eyes; this is for the kitchen staff who wake up early to make hundreds of egg-salad sandwiches, singing as they sift through mountains of dishes only to start all over again at lunch; this is for the behind the scenes office staff who organize and plan out incredible summer programming; this is for the trippers, the lifeguards, the arts-and-crafts gurus, the toilet bowl washers, the lawn-mowers, the entertainers, and mentors.
It was the summer of 2007 and I worked at an urban summer camp for youth from difficult backgrounds – youth in group homes and foster care, youth from poor families trying to make ends meet, and youth who needed extra support. We had a tight group of 3 staff, and a handful of dedicated volunteers. Our budget barely covered snacks, but our rental space at the local community centre was free. We put our heads together to come up with programming that relied heavily on free activities – a trek to the park swimming pool, paper airplane contests, dance parties, and outdoor games. I remember once hosting a screaming contest at 9am (the winner was the one who could run the farthest on one loud screaming breath) – it ended abruptly when by-law was called. Dodgeball was an all-time favourite; and my rival, an 11-year-old boy who struggled with aggression, broke my finger with one tough throw. Our friendship only grew stronger after that.
I cared for these kids fiercely. It was they who taught me to play make believe games running around yelling out our powers, “no! That fireball shot didn’t kill me ‘coz I used my force field powers to make a shield bubble!” – that summer, we created superheroes out of each other.
This International Women’s Day NYQUEST Camp Canada is celebrating all the international participants who have been placed at summer camps in Canada, the many camp staff and directors, and the all-girls camps who make it their mission to empower young girls and women to grow into strong and brilliant human beings. Here’s to continuing this work, to all the fantastic international participants who will be inspiring change working at GirlGuides camps, all girls camps, and with all kids at every location!
Share a personal story, or tell us about an incredible camp-involved woman in your life to add to the many voices of women and girls that enrich the camp experience!