When you think of summer camp-you think of fun, right? Campers can choose to participate in any activity they wish, they can be outdoors if the wish, they smile and laugh with friends and every day is an adventure. But there is so much more that summer camps offer, skills and life experiences that the campers are developing without even being aware they are doing so. This is what we aim for at Camp Carolina with every single boy who is dropped off on opening day.
When your son is dropped off at Camp Carolina-his whole environment has changed. There are new faces, new places and new opportunities he has never even considered trying and he needs to adapt. Life is always changing-new schools, moving town, going to university, getting a job etc are all big life changes that we expect our children to just “do”. If your children have always been in the same environment, with the same people, doing the same things-these changes can be tough! At camp-sure there is change, but the change is fun! The people during the change are caring, supportive and trained to help youth deal with these changes. The days-although very different to a home environment are full of opportunities to explore, learn by doing and keep boys actively engaged and focused.
Right from that first burger lunch without Mom and Dad beside him, our campers are given responsibility and decisions to make. Even our smallest campers are encouraged to make decisions from day 1 under the watchful eye of our counselors whose goal is to guide them while developing these important life skills. One of the campers will offer clear the table for his cabin mates and counselors during that first lunch but next time it will be someone else’s turn. Why? Because it is fair, it is what a good friend would do and it is a compromise. Children WANT to be given responsibility and the opportunity to make a decision. After watching their counselor’s role model how to be responsible for his actions and how to make caring and safe decisions they want to do that as well! After all-their counselor with a crazy hat, funny accent and awesome stories from their home country is the new “coolest person in town”.
Another skill the boys are developing at camp is confidence in themselves. Camp is one of those rare places where being “cool” doesn’t exist. There is no “cool” activity everyone must do, no “cool” electronics or gadgets to compare and no “cool” clothes or hairstyles to achieve. Boys can be boys without trying to impress each other or competing to be number 1, which is the focus in a majority of today’s society. We do not focus on winning and competing at camp-instead bettering yourself and improving-not only with your skills in your activities but as a person as well. Campers are praised not only for reaching the top of the climbing wall but also for the camper at the bottom of the wall-guiding, encouraging and cheering for his friend up the top. To us-this is just as important as achieving a physical activity based skill.
When I first came to work at camp for a summer I thought it was going to be all about fun! And it was fun! But during staff training I learned so much more about child development and how camp can positively affect a child in so many ways. I remember reflecting after session 1 had finished my first year. Campers had arrived on opening day- there were the nervous first time campers who were shy and not too sure on the whole camp experience. Then there were the 7 year returnee campers who were just so pumped to see camp buddies again. By closing day it was harder to identify between the returnees and first time campers. They were all confident in their decisions made, took responsibility for packing their trunks to go home and most importantly they were kind, caring and helpful to not only their friends but everyone in the camp community. Seeing these changes over just 3 weeks of camp had confirmed what we had learned during staff training. Camp Carolina was helping shape and develop our campers into responsible, caring, confident and passionate young gentleman summer after summer. It was truly more than just a “fun summer experience” and I was in it for the long run! So here’s to summer 2014-Another summer of fun and watching children develop into true gentleman!