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Ryan

New Zealand

2016

YMCA Camp Widjiwagan

Tennessee

Student

"I decided to apply to Camp America as I wanted to be a positive role model for children, give them an unforgettable summer and to meet people from all over the world.

My favourite memory of my summer would be the last Saturday night my friends and I had off. We went to the best fried chicken restaurant in Nashville, got to use all of the camps water activities, played Mario kart, ate pizza and then had a proper fry up breakfast as a way to bring in the last week of our summer together. For me this was a simple weekend, but with all the trials and tribulations that camp life brought. Having something simple to round off our last weekend together made it even more memorable.

My favourite memory of that summer would have to be when I helped a camper to overcome her fear of heights. This camper had feared heights all her life. We were scheduled to go on the big swing. The big swing required campers to be pulled up in the air by their fellow campers and then swing through the air. The idea of going to the top alone made this camper uneasy. I asked her if she liked birds. She said yes. I then asked her if she wanted to fly like a bird and she then gave me a big, smile filled yes. I told her that if she went on the swing, she’d be able to soar like a bird. I then told her she we would stop pulling her upwards wherever she was comfortable and that I’d be right there to catch her. We got her all set up to go on the swing, got her hooked up to the swing, and then started pulling her upwards. She was very nervous once she told us to stop. She wanted to come down, I then told her the only way she was getting down was swinging. As soon as she let go, she was shouting with joy “I’m flying like a bird, watch me go!” When I went to unclip her from the swing her smile was almost from ear to ear. She asked if she keep swinging for the rest of the day and wanted to climb as high as the sky! For me, moments like this when you help a camper overcome their obstacles and challenges in life and have them replaced with confidence and happiness. To see the change in a person was the best reward I got from camp.

Camp was different to how I expected it as it was a lot more contact time with the campers than what I expected. From what other people had told me you didn’t sleep in the same room as the campers and you were only with the campers for your activities mainly. You were around campers almost 24/7 from Sunday night to Saturday morning. Camp was also a lot more tiring than I expected it to be. 

The ways that camp stays with me today is through the patience I gained at camp and the different ways to look at situation. Before camp I was not a very patient person and often lost patience in situations where it was completely unnecessary to act in the manner that I would. Camp taught me that difficult situations often require patience and that I will gain more from being patient and reacting in a more positive manner to situations.

Camp shaped my future as it gave me a love for working with children, gave me confidence in myself that I didn’t previously have and made me a better person and I would recommend the programme to others as it’s a unique experience that you will never be able to find anywhere else. It will also teach you so much more about yourself then you ever thought possible. The people that you meet, and affect will stay with you for the rest of your life.

One thing I would say to people considering Camp America would be to go into it with an open mind and take the opportunity with both hands. Its an experience you’ll never forget. My camp was a YMCA camp. My favourite thing about the camp was the amount of time we got to spend with the campers. Camp taught me to take every opportunity presented to me with both hands and that some of the things we take for granted in life not everyone gets access to.

One camper I’ll always remember was a then 5-year-old boy called Eli. Always had the biggest smile and could often be attached to one of my legs.

After camp, I travelled from New Jersey, down to New Orleans, across to Las Vegas, and then up to San Francisco. We went through 16 states in 21 days. Seeing Philadelphia, Washington DC, Nashville, Memphis, Grand Canyon and San Francisco on the way."

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