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"Arriving in America" by Keely Raynor


If you're a little bit too carefree like me don't take your laptop because you will not be returning home with it.

So anyway, I worked at an underprivileged Salvation Army Christian camp in Illinois, and it was an absolutely life-changing experience. I flew out on June the 2nd and once we got there we had 2 weeks of training before camp actually started. For our training time all of the female staff stayed in the same cabin so that we could bond, and it was the same for the boys. I was a bit nervous about it at first but after a few days we all became pretty much best-friends and it carried on like that for the rest of the summer. Most of the staff were American and then there were 5 international members of staff (including myself).

For the training week it felt like we as staff were campers, we would get up each day at 7am, and have to be ready for breakfast at 8am, then we would usually spend the morning doing formal training in a classroom about subjects such as, child protection, abuse awareness and 'love and logic', which basically refers to positive parenting solutions. Then the afternoon would be spent learning and practicing the activities that we would be doing with our campers, these activities included; hiking, soccer, swimming, 9-square, arts and crafts, paintball, pellet guns, archery, gaga ball, basketball, dodge ball, and Human Foosball.

During our final few days of training our camp hosted an Old Age Camp for the elderly, it was fantastic in every single aspect and quite surreal for me because we things like this don't really exist in England, it felt like we were really doing something for the community and I absolutely loved it. One night for the evening program they did a talent show and I don't think the audience ever stopped laughing, one act consisted of the husband playing on the piano 'oh look at that doggy in the window' while the wife barked along to it. We also had a formal dinner with them where we all got dressed up and had a sophisticated dinner with them, and it made a nice change than wearing our usual muddy camp clothes and eating hot dogs, and it was lovely to see our campers so happy.

One of my favorite memories from the week was driving up and down the camp on a golf cart encouraging an old man who walked beside me trying to get 10, 000 steps done on his fit bit, and in the morning he came over to me and excitedly told me that for the first time he'd achieved 10, 000 steps on his fit bit.

Anyway, Old Age Camp ended, and it was getting closer for us to do our real job, we all got paired up by our managers with our co-counsellors, I got a girl called Sarah from America and was really excited about it. Stay tuned to hear more about when the kids arrived at camp!

Goodbye, Keely x