Lodge Leader and Lifeguard
Special Needs Camp
Why did you apply to work at camp?
I’d loved the idea of working on a summer camp since I was about 12. When I was finally old enough I jumped on it. I had a pretty different idea in my head of what it would be like to the reality of it. I’d gone into it wanting a cliche summer camp experience of all fun and minimum work. I quickly learned that there was much more to it than that, and the expectations I had of the summer and of myself drastically changed when I wasn’t placed at the recruitment fair. I ended up taking a job at a special needs camp (which i was originally unwilling to do) and it was the best thing I ever did.
Applying for camp...
I started my online application for Camp America in January. I attended the Camp Director recruitment fair in London but unfortunately didn't get a place. A little disheartened but still eager, I arranged an interview and finished my application. My application was availble for Camp Directors to view by February! By the end of April I was starting to lose hope; checking my emails multiple times a day. I was offered the Ready Steady Go scheme where I could get my visa before I got placed and was ready to fly at short notice! 15th May I finally got that 'Congratulations you've been placed' email - you're flying to America in 3 weeks! The wait was definitely worth it!
I worked on a special needs camp that supports individuals with mild to moderate intellectual development disabilities. This means we help care for adults and children during their stay, and give them the best possible summer camp experience year after year.
Favourite thing about America...
My absolute number 1 is all of the wonderful people that made my time across the pond so special. Alternatively I’d have to say the the overwhelming size and beauty of pretty much wherever you are in America, postcard views around every corner! Also this might seem obvious but I was so pleasantly surprised at all of the ‘Americanisms’ that you figure are just real in movies/TV - they’re everywhere!
What will you take away?
Going to camp has completely changed my life, I never expected for it to have had this kind of impact 5 years later. Overall I’ve learnt to listen to, and understand individuals who’s voices aren’t always heard. To be there for those who need someone to talk to, or to assist with tasks we take for granted, and to be grateful for what I’ve got. Most of all though I learned that you get out what you put in!
Best part about working on camp...
Too many to choose! I’d say seeing the impact that your fellow counsellors and staff have on the lives of the guests that come; none more so than the individuals who’ve been returning for 30+ years in some cases! I’ve seen and personally experienced some truly life changing relationships in my time at camp, and the impact that the staff and guests have on you will never go away.
Also the unpredictability and chaos of a camp environment. There are always surprises to keep you on your toes, and every day is different!
It’s tough to summarize a whole day in just a few sentences, but here goes:
Up early to help the guys out of bed and ready for the day, then breakfast, a few morning activities, and then back to the dining hall for lunch. More activities in the afternoon before dinner, which is followed by the evening activity, then the after-hours cafe for guests to spend some pocket money at the store, and finally to bed! Activities range from swimming, boat rides, pony rides, nature & gardening, archery, colour wars and all of the other activities you’ll likely find at camp. There’s also plenty of leisure time for the guests between the hectic mealtimes and activities. Every day is absolutely full of surprises come rain or shine.
Favourite part of your day
Mealtimes for sure. We have no seating plan so everyone can sit where they want, counsellors and staff alike. It’s always noisy, usually messy, super sociable and gives everyone a fresh wave of energy to go and get at it again for a few more hours. Special shoutout to swimming too, favourite camp activity of mine (lifeguards have the best job) and of many of our guests’; and pony rides. I’ve been privileged enough to help individuals with physical disabilities to walk in the pool and ride a horse, which is is a very humbling experience.