Before setting off for camp, some campers and their parents wonder about how they will fit in, since it’s natural to try and imagine new experiences ahead of time. However, like most adventures, camp often turns out to be wonderful in ways that can’t be completely anticipated! If you’re still wondering about going to camp, you’ll be interested to hear about the experience of India (9) and Athéna (6), who crossed the Atlantic from France to attend Camp Weequahic last summer. Well, at first the plan was for India to go to camp, but after watching the Camp Weequahic video and getting goosebumps 10 to 20 times, Athéna became determined to go with her sister. Their parents did a lot of research and supported the girls going to camp 100% — a combination that led to a fantastic summer camp experience for the whole family!
The girls’ mother Shaila-Ann, looked for a camp to meet her specific criteria—a camp that was not too big, near a major airport, co-ed, and with tons of new activities for her child to experience. Shaila-Ann also feels it was important to choose the camp before presenting it to the children (especially for those as young as hers), so they felt secure with a decision made by their parents and didn’t feel pressured by such a big question. She also reports that looking back, using online resources like the video “really gave a feel for the actual camp experience,” and allowed India and Athéna to participate in the process.
The family met camp directors Cole and Kate at an information meeting. They immediately felt that Cole’s criteria for choosing staff was in line with their values and could see that he was fully dedicated to camp and facilitating a caring family environment. These parents especially felt that nobody could “pull the wool over Cole’s eyes” and this gave them “tremendous confidence in taking the leap of faith to send the children to a place [they] had not visited themselves.” Once at camp, the girls felt included and supported by camp staff and other campers, which is what their parents had predicted! The girls were happy and their parents enjoyed that reassurance with so many miles between them.
India and Athéna really loved camp and also gained a first hand experience of diverse American culture—exactly what the family was looking for. India was thrilled that she could communicate with Spanish speaking campers from Florida although at first she imagined they were from a different country and not part of the United States. Camp really broadened her concept of the States and understanding of North American families and geography! Athéna learned that she can make friends and have a wonderful time without being completely fluent in English—now both girls use those skills in meeting people and exploring their world. Their parents still make sure to share how proud they are of their girls who fiercely embarked on their camp adventure and had such a memorable time. They haven’t pushed for details about everything and Shaila-Ann says, “even today several months later the girls will suddenly relate their success in overcoming their initial fear of going down the zip line or a funny incident with one of the wonderful counselors that made them laugh. . .”
Shaila-Ann is thrilled that, “the Camp experience enabled my girls to feel that they can do pretty much ANYTHING–since they felt accepted and “at home”–at camp in a foreign country they had never visited!” Learning they can feel secure and happy on their own anywhere built tremendous confidence and India is thinking of studying in the US when she is older. “For my younger daughter who was not so fluent in English, the experience showed her the benefits of speaking up in order to interact with others and that skill will last a lifetime!”
AFSC Camps are committed to caring for individual campers and creating an environment where campers grow and friendships blossom. Camp staff are trained and dedicated to helping campers feel included and encourage campers to care for each other. This reciprocity of sharing/caring is core to the whole inclusive experience and foundational to developing capable children–even as young as India and Athéna. Now that’s kid power!
Do you have a similar story to share? How has summer camp shaped independence in you or someone you know?
Thanks Shaila-Ann, India and Athéna for sharing your adventure–and well done girls!