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Day in the life: Under-Served Community Camp


Pretty Lake consisted of 5 sessions, each a weeklong with a different group of campers each week. The week at camp was completely free for the families.

7:15am- Wake Up

Counsellors are usually the first to wake up so they are able to get washed and dressed, ready for the campers to get up around 7:30. Some campers did get up with us, but most appreciated the extra few minutes in bed. For those still asleep, counsellors would go around and wake them up. We found putting some fun music on was a good way to get the day started and put the campers in a good mood. Each cabin would wear a different colour t-shirt and basketball shorts. As our campers came from a mixture of different backgrounds Pretty Lake wants every camper to feel equal and so the campers are asked to come with very little as everything is provided from our commissary donated by local supporters. This included toiletries, underwear, books, swimwear, shoes, anything they would need. Before each session each counsellor would prepare the clothes, bedding and an individual toiletry bag for their campers. As some campers couldn’t afford to come with anything, this method eliminated any nerves or embarrassment they may otherwise feel. 

7:50am- Walk to Flagpole

Our camp was split into two groups, in-post (age 7-11) and out-post (OP) (age 11-14). I was with the out-post kids and our cabins were down a trail in the forest, away from main camp giving the older campers a bit more freedom. This meant that we had a little walk in the morning to get to breakfast. We would walk lakeside usually with other OP cabins, singing camp songs and spotting any animals we could.

8:00am- Yoga and Flag raising

When we arrived at the flagpole the first group there would help raise the flag. This alternated from the American flag, the flag of Michigan and the Union Jack for the international staff. Our programme director found that doing some simple yoga and stretching was a good way to start the day and wake everyone up. We then sang ‘alive, awake, enthusiastic’, before going in to wash hands and have breakfast. The more you participated usually determined how quickly you got to go in, we would then do “give me your best impression of a…” for the remaining cabins and who would give the best impression would go in next.

8:15am- Breakfast and announcements

All cabins had their designated tables, these were long banquet-like tables shared with another cabin. There was one cabin from In-post cabin and one from out-post on each table so the older campers could interact with the younger campers. Also if some of the kids had other siblings at camp at the same time, mealtimes were a good chance for them to see each other and, sometimes the younger ones could be homesick, it was a nice time to have a bit of comfort from their older siblings. Our meals were served family style so big plates portioned for our cabin that the counsellors would collect from the kitchen. There was a big range of food, from cereal, a hot option and fruit. Mealtimes were also a good time to develop campers independence. Each meal one cabin would go in and set the plates, cutlery and cups out for everyone. After the meal, campers cleared the table, wiped it down and brushed up any mess around their seats.

9:15am- Cabin clean up

After breakfast, the campers went to clear up their cabins and make their beds ready for inspection for the cabin competition. The cleanest cabin would win the golden plunger, second place a silver dustpan, and third a bronze toilet brush to keep for the night. This got surprisingly competitive between the campers and counsellors.

9:30am- First activity 

At camp we did a rotation of activities so the campers could experience a variety, hopefully leaving having tried something new. Activities included: archery, swimming in the lake (a lot of swimming), boating, crafts, farm activities, nature, fishing, games and more. The older cabins had the chance to do the adventure centre also which focussed on team building and then doing the high ropes course or rock climbing. 

10:30am- Second Activity

11:45am- Flagpole

Before lunch we gathered at the flagpole again, this time it was led by a cabin or counsellors. We sung a few camp songs to get everyone’s energy levels back up after the morning activities. 

12pm- Lunchtime

Much needed! At this point everyone was very hungry. Again lunch was served family style, we all shared a hot meal and had a salad bar as an option. There was also the PB&J table for the “fussy eaters” but a lot of the campers (and counsellors) would have this for dessert. This was a nut-free camp, so the peanut butter was actually sunflower seed spread which was actually really good. Safe to say we were full after this meal.

1pm- Chillax

By this time, the campers and counsellors were a little bit sleepy from the morning, so we all took our campers back to our cabins for some downtime and get off our feet for a while. Some took naps or we played quiet games, depending on how they were feeling. 

2pm- Weeklys

At the start of the week, each camper had the chance to sign up to a ‘weekly’ activity everyday so they could perhaps do an activity they hadn’t had the chance to do during the normal activities such as dance, basketball, football, choir, gaga, 9 square and more. Or they could repeat an activity they enjoyed like archery, crafts, swimming etc. Some of the international staff volunteered to run rounders which was great fun and the campers really enjoyed it, even though it took a few times to explain how it isn’t the same as baseball.

3:30pm- Snack

The weeklys were slightly longer than a normal activity so before our 4th activity of the afternoon we had a snack which was usually ice lollies/ ice cream, frozen grapes, something refreshing.

4:00pm- 4th Activity

Time for the last rotational activity of the day with your cabin.

5:15pm- Flagpole

More songs and dancing. 

5:30pm- Dinner/ Cookout

Our final meal of the day, again another hearty hot meal like burgers, lasagne, ramen and more, followed by a dessert. The salad bar was still an option and the PB&J table. One night in the week though, we took a few cabins out to have a cookout where we would teach them how to build a fire, then we roasted hotdogs and made s’mores.  We would take the chance to go on a little nature walk, see if we could find some salamanders and play some games.

7:00pm- Evening Activity 

In the evening we did a camp activity with either all of the cabins or split in half, this could have been a talent show, swimpics (races which involved a lot of water), gold rush, tie dye and finished the week with carnival and a dance party. 

8:30pm- Snack then back to Cabins

If it wasn’t carnival night, we had another snack before heading back to get ready for bed. Out in outpost we had a little pavilion that all the OP cabins gathered in to play games and interact for an hour or so whilst everyone could shower and get ready for bed. Counsellors would take this opportunity to collect any dirty washing and get the clothes and any supplies like sun cream and bugspray ready for the next day. We would supervise showers also making sure everyone had what they needed. You would be surprised how many campers would forget to take a towel with them. Once everyone was ready we would head to the cabin at about 9:30, the younger cabins would have lights out a little earlier at this point, we would have some time to reflect on the day, do our ‘roses and thorns’ of the day, telling everyone what their high point and low point was. We then might read a few chapters of a book or chat for a bit then lights out at 10pm. 

A lot happens during a day at Pretty Lake but the weeks go so quickly and before you know it, summer is over. Although it is hard work at times it is the most rewarding and fun experience and a summer you will never forget. Just like the other camp types, every under-served camp is different. Working on a Under-Served Community Camp is a hugely rewarding experience as you are truly helping to change children's lives and have a positive impact on their future.