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We caught up with Chris after completing our Summer Camp Exchage programme at a special needs camp near Philadelphia. He shares all his memories of an amazing summer with us!
"I don't want to leave!". This is what I say each summer when I leave the USA. Every summer has been different, but each one is just as awesome, and just as memorable. Waking up at 7:30 every morning at first doesn't seem fun..... but doing this with kids talking, joking and running around makes it all worth while. I worked at a special needs camp near Philadelphia, which itself sounds amazing! I was nervous my first year, as I had just left school. But after being on camp for just a few hours, I felt right at home. I think having other international staff, amazing kids and fantastic weather all made it feel like a second home. Every day was different, and none of them boring. I made amazing friends - in fact, my best friends now are people that I met at camp. Not only has camp changed my life (clichéd, but true), but it has given me more opportunities! After my first summer, I was offered the job of Drama Programmer and have since done this and Camp Counsellor for three years!
I suppose the hardest parts of the summers are getting to bed at one, getting up through the night to help out the campers, then getting up at 7.30. I also found it hard to keep up the constant energy and enthusiasm needed. Working with special needs I was essentially on-call 24/7. So having to constantly keep these high levels was quite difficult. However I managed to do this by reminding myself that I am here to ensure that the children have an amazing time! Needing this constant energy did cause issues between staff as you are in each others pockets all day every day for the entire summer, and many counsellors seem to forget the real reason they are there.
A great memory of camp is when we had gone on a day trip to Philadelphia zoo. I was assigned a few campers to take care of for the day, each of which were in my cabin so I knew quite well. However one thing that I had forgotten is that one of my campers was afraid of animals. As you can guess, this lead to a fun day out at the zoo!
This year, I worked with the music and arts programmers to put together a talent show by both overnight camp (which is the one I worked with) and day camp (who were on the same grounds as overnight). This involved working in all the drama, arts and music sessions, as well as preparing things outside of sessions. It was a hard week but proved worthwhile watching the campers perform to their parents and fellow campers.
As part of my time in the states all the staff went on 'vacation' for a week camping in the woods. We were in the middle of mountains, and had a lake to swim in. It was absolutely breath-taking, and such a great experience. Some of us went hiking, and we cooked over open fires and swam in the lake. It is definitely one of my greatest memories of my time in America!
Overall, the camp I am at is truly awe-inspiring! Yes, I didn't get on with all the staff, but at the same time my best friends now are those that I made at camp. I keep in constant contact with some of the campers and see and visit them outside of camp. Camp is one place that you can be yourself, grow as person, have fun, learn skills and make friends that will be there forever!
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