Originally Uploaded: 4th November 2018
Last year I decided that I wanted to do Camp America during the summer of 2018.
For those that don’t know Camp America is an organisation that works with individuals and gives them the opportunity to travel and work in America at a summer camp. Camp America is partnered with many different camps so there are a variety of different positions and locations. The experience takes place over the course of approximately nine weeks during which you are paid for your time there. Therefore after your placement is finished and before you fly home – which is booked by Camp America – you can travel around with the money you earned. This sounds amazing, right?
So what was it like working with Camp America?
It was terrible.
What? You thought I was going to sugar coat it and lie to you guys (all six of my ‘loyal’ readers)? The amount of time and money and energy and sweat and tears and blood (no exaggeration I almost got hit by a train for this) I poured into this just to get to Heathrow airport, not even America just Heathrow airport, was not worth it.
You see Camp America like to hype up the fact that you’re going to America; they hang the country up in florescent lights and paint everything red, white and blue until all you see, hear, think – even poop – about doing Camp America. So I sign up and create my profile all excited to get to America but there were a hundred more steps in between getting there. For example, all the things I had to pay for in order to get there; I had to pay for medical insurance, airport tax, my visa, background checks etc. Just a simple £800 to hand over, it’s not like I’m a first year student living on rice that has a spare £800 in her back pocket. I already kick up a fuss about paying for printing in my university library – which we still need to sort out, I mean come on.
So here I am paying for all these different things that I never even thought of before and travelling back and forth between London and Colchester and Coventry and Birmingham. I was also constantly calling people to ask questions because I felt that the information provided for wasn’t suffice enough for my liking. I had just been let go from one job; my emotional and mental well being was slowly declining because of an issue at university; exam season was also slowly approaching, can you really blame me for already hating the experience before it had begun?
I remember sitting there in the airport, eyes closed trying to somehow soothe my raging headache, thinking why I didn’t just book a ticket to Ibiza for a couple of weeks. That would have been cheaper and less of a hassle.
But the problems didn’t even stop once I left the country, they followed close behind me.
When I arrived at camp I found this experience was not what I thought it was going to be. There was constant gossiping, invasion of privacy, biases, double standards and lack of efficient communication. I was constantly tired physically, mentally and emotionally.
Oh and don’t get me started on the pay, that pay that Camp America so nicely liked to highlight as a benefit yeah that one I was paid peanuts. I was paid peanuts in comparison and I was definitely not paid enough to basically be working 21 hours for 7 weeks with kids who were disrespectful and rude.
Would I do it again? Absolutely.
Let’s go back to the beginning.
My sister and I had planned to do Camp America together and so we went to the recruitment fair in London to search for prospective camps. I didn’t really want to talk to people and try and sell myself I just wanted to look about for an hour and get some shrimp tacos with my sister. Even though that was my mind set I was still looking at different camps that I could potentially go and research later when I was in a better mood. My ideal camp was a private, non-religious day camp on the West Coast and as close to the beach as possible. The non-religious part was definitely the part I wanted highlighted the most; because of where I was in my faith I didn’t want to spend 3 months in America in a Christian camp.
I remember walking around hopelessly waiting for my sister to be done talking to the hundredth recruitment staff while trying to finesse the Camp America staff for more free kit kats. I remember giving up just as Billy (who I had been in contact with and was trying to avoid) found me and asked if I still wanted to work with a Christian camp to which I responded yes – yeah I know but I never explicitly said it out loud.
Before I could even fully convince myself that my ‘yes’ was genuine I was sitting in front of a Christian camp. They were just about to pack up and leave for the day and they looked just as tired as I was from walking around. But we get to talking and without knowing the name of the camp or whether the dates aligned with my availability I’m hired on the spot. Our ideas just aligned and somehow a naturally very reserved individual was opening up, cracking jokes and smiling. I like to believe that God has a sense of humour and I was hired by a camp that was the exact opposite of what I wanted. An overnight, Christian camp on the East coast.
But Camp Ladore was where I needed to be.
As I said before getting to camp was not easy and when I got there I was constantly looking for an escape route. I think it’s funny the way God uses people to speak into your life. It wasn’t until a random Monday night when I walked into a spontaneous worship session that my mind set changed. I sang along but I wasn’t really feeling it and just wanted to get a snack but as the room got smaller I felt myself being drawn deeper. I don’t know how to summarise it but the spirit of God flooded the room and my heart was raptured, convicted and transformed for a split second – I say split second because I still went back to being moody and reserved. But a split second was all that was needed because the ice around me was starting to melt, it was the beginning of something monumental.
How do I describe and put into words the growth I experienced? I met so many different people, kids and my own co-workers that changed my views on so many things. Oh my God do not underestimate those kids because they taught me things about myself that I didn’t even know. They taught me to listen, to grow up, to be authoritative but also how to laugh and enjoy the present. They exposed my privilege and biases, they made me cry with joy and sadness and annoyance. Don’t get me wrong working at camp
was exhausting and challenging but God’s love remained my sole focus, even though I wavered and fought against it.
Ladore is my home and the people that I met this summer are always going to a part of my family whether I see them again or not. I wish they knew the impact they played in my life, I wish I could fully explain to people the place I was in before camp and how motivated I am now. I had my off days – so many off days – I was miserable and antisocial, I was an inadequate counsellor and a useless co-worker but I learnt and I grew and ultimately I tried.
Do not do Camp America if you want to just travel to America for a holiday because this experience is a job. Do not do Camp America for the money because I went home still deep into my overdraft (shh don’t tell my parents). Do not do Camp America for some charitable excuse or a cute Instagram picture with kids or to win Jesus points. Don’t even do Camp America if you’re trying to find future bae just go on Tinder or Bumble or whatever. But do Camp America if you’re ready to work your backside off, get eaten by so many bugs, lose your voice by singing camp songs, crying from exhaustion, eat a thousand smores, and be impacted by amazing kids and hopefully the transformative love of God.
Do it not to get something back, just do it!