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"Dear Camp America" by Liverpool Brand Managers

21.01.16

Dear Camp America,

4 years ago in January 2012, I was a fresher in my first year at university. I’ll be honest, travelling had never crossed my mind, let alone the thought of working at a summer camp. I guess I was feeling a little bit lost and was trying to find something to steer me in the right direction. That’s when I came across your website and something just clicked; so I signed up but I guess you could say I didn’t really know what I was getting myself in for.

A week from that night I first registered, I had my interview. I’d always taught dance and drama to children, I had always worked in schools and had aspirations of being a teacher so it all started to make perfect sense. Applying I put down my skills as drama and dance, having always taught it I thought to myself “yeah I’ll get hired in that no problem”, but for my third skill I was clutching at straws to be perfectly honest and settled on climbing even though I had only done it really informally. My interviewer Sarah was fantastic, she made me feel at ease and was helpful in all the ways you would want. She gave me advice, helped me feel relaxed and gave me a great insight into her experiences at camp. I’ll be realistic with you, I put it to the back of my mind and didn’t really think twice about it after my interview, I guess because I was still unsure about what I was doing and had applied completely spur of the moment.

Fast forward to May 2012 and I was getting ready for a night out with the girls to celebrate a friends birthday. For the past 3 days I’d had phone calls from a number and instantly thought “it’s a cold caller ignore it”, but this time I answered and it was the American Camp America office telling me a camp, CYO Hamilton in Washington state wanted to hire me. I was completely overwhelmed but I spoke to the director on the phone and she said they wanted me to work at their high school camp as a high ropes instructor. I accepted the placement and they wanted me to fly out 2 weeks later. I remember the mixture of emotions: excitement, happiness, joy, surprise but most all the anxiety…I’D NEVER TAUGHT CLIMBING!

June arrived and I flew out with another CA applicant, Heather, who has now become an incredible life long friend. I remember my brother, my nieces and my mum waving me off at the airport and it all started to hit me that I was off for this amazing adventure that I never dreamed I would have been experiencing.

So I spent 9 weeks at a Catholic camp as a climbing teacher. Being born and raised a Catholic, the religious aspect didn’t phase me and whilst I’m not overly religious, surprisingly the camp helped me reconnect with my faith. I worked with campers aged 11-18 on weekly rotations. My campers are what made my summer complete. I still to this day remember being on a camping trip with a bunch of 14 year old girls who all sat down around the campfire and started to talk about their body weight, bullying in school and problems they experienced growing up. Me and my co-counsellor overheard the conversation and instantly panicked. These girls were AMAZING, each single one of them was so special and we had an incredible bond with them to the point that it hurt us hearing that they were struggling so much. I walked over and sat them down, telling them my own life experiences and trying to part some words of wisdom and girls that were only 4 years younger than me. I’m blessed that to this day, those girls who are now all 18 still remember that conversation and tell me that I had a positive impact on their life. But that’s only one memory; the campfires, the co-counsellors, the opportunity to make a difference in a child’s life…I still remember them all. The jokes, the songs, the dances are all ingrained on my mind and every day in my life something will trigger a memory from my time at camp.

So why am I writing this to you all? 4 years ago I was a lost 18 year old girl that didn’t know what she was doing or why she was even signing up to this so called “Camp America” programme. Today I’m sat here a 23 year old woman that realises when I bought into the Camp America philosophy, I wasn’t just buying into a chance to travel and work abroad, I bought into a family. My Camp America family. In my 4 years since camp I’ve been fortunate enough to work as a brand manager and now an interviewer helping other people live their dream. Every applicant to me is a new friend, a new person I share a common interest with. The people I work with never cease to amaze me and I class my fellow brand managers, interviewers and office staff as not just some fantastic friends, but as part of this amazing, fantastic, awesome but bloody crazy in the best kind of way family. You soon learn that after working at camp, you will instantly click with anyone else who has. We share a similar mind set, similar interests and one of the greatest connections all from one simple thing: working at camp.

So to my crazy, wonderful Camp America family: thank you. Thank you for letting me experience something so brilliant. For allowing me the chance to grow and learn as a person. Thank you for letting me be part of spreading the incredible programme that is Camp America. Most of all thank you for all just being you, the most amazing people I could ever ask to know, always being there when things get a bit rubbish and for being there when things are fantastic. I don’t know where I’d be without you guys in my life.

If you’re considering camp like that lost girl was 4 years ago, think about it this way: Camp America isn’t just for summer; Camp America is for life and once you take part in the programme the memories, the friends and skills it will help you develop will never leave you. You’ll be part of the ever-growing family that is Camp America for life.

All my love,

Sinéad