America #3 

I remember one of the earlier weeks at camp there was a boy in my cabin…let’s call him Trent. I think he must have been going through a rough patch at home but his dad and nana managed to get him to camp without too much fuss. But he was really homesick and struggled to settle into camp life. He was only booked in for one week so at least it would go quickly for him? 

Kids can be the cruelest people sometimes but this week showed me how amazing they can be as well. The entire cabin tried tirelessly to include Trent in all the activities and I think by then end of it he could call them very loyal friends. Trent still struggled though and most nights he’d be in bed crying. As one of his councillors I felt absolutely heartbroken that this child had been ‘abandoned’ at camp and wears hating it. Missing home every second. 

But a few weeks later Trent was back, what a surprise! And because I’d been his councillor the first time and apparently done such a good job they were putting me in his cabin again. I was so flattered. The fact that despite all his struggles he’d gone home and said he’d had an amazing time was so great to hear. And it was even nicer to hear that some of that joy came from me and that I could spend another week with him!

And that second week was like being with a completely different person. He didn’t get upset once, he made loads more friends and threw himself into the daily activities. And he told me all about his love of Minecraft. A passion we both shared!

After a few short, amazing weeks in the sun at camp I started to realise that this is what I wanted to be doing with my life. Living in the sun. Just kidding, I wanted to be helping people, making a small difference in a small way to peoples lives.

He who saves one life, saves the world entirely. 

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America #2

After the training week there were nine weeks of camp. Generally ever week we’d get a new set of kids although some did stay for a few weeks or come back later in the summer. For members of the YMCA (who ran the camp) it costs around £620 for one week at camp. One kid was there for seven weeks! That’s one expensive summer.

Every week followed a similar routine, we’d wake the kids up nice and early to head to the canteen for breakfast and we always tried to be the first to arrive, which we did on several occasions! That meant we got the fresh hot food as we were at the front of the queue. Tuesday was the best day for breakfast and lunch, pancakes and pizza! Although for the entire lunch period on a Tuesday they would play a song called ‘All I Eat is Pizza’ which I loved…some people not so much.

Between breakfast and lunch the kids would be split down the middle, half doing land activities and half doing water activities. I ended up working at the rifle range most weeks, which was absolutely fine with me! Spending a day out in the sun shooting with some awesome kids. What could be better? Then after lunch we’d head back to the cabins for some down town then back out to switch to land or water.

We were assigned our cabins at the beginning of every week and there would usually be two or three councillors (the grown ups) in each cabin with about ten kids. That was our little family for the week. After dinner we’d get ready for the evening activity. On a Monday this was usually some camp wide activity but there would be multiple routes a cabin could take through the story. One week I had the pleasure of being a Chitauri (from The Avengers) and the kids went round camp doing Marvel related stuff…like a real life video game.

As for time off, we’d have lunch to ourselves one day and then on alternating weeks we’d have a long night or a short night. The short night we could leave once the kids were settled in for dinner but we had to be back by…I can’t remember what time but we had a few hours off. On a long night I think the curfew was 1am so we’d go out for dinner, take a trip to Walmart to stock up on sweets then head back to camp. At least that’s what I did.

America #1

During my first gap year I had the absolute incredible pleasure of spending a few months in America working over summer. I applied for Camp America in a fit of pique because I hated living at home with my terrible step father. He isn’t actually terrible and really I should thank him for being grumpy sometimes because it meant I got to spend a summer in the states!

I applied just after the normal deadline but instead of decline me they put me onto a special ‘ready, Steady, Go!’ program which meant I could end up leaving for America at very short notice. It was all a bit of a dream for a few months, my application was sent off and I did the required interview but I honestly didn’t believe I would actually get a place at a camp, especially because I’d applied very impulsively.

But then one Saturday evening, halfway through a 12 hour shift at work, I got an email from a camp in Virginia asking if I could run the drama program for the summer. Of course I had to accept and I snook outside to send an reply saying I would love to go. I swiftly got a reply telling me my flight out to camp would be on Tuesday morning. That’s right, Tuesday, as in two full days away.

My boss had already left for the day so I desperately tried to contact him and I of course told my mother and father that I would be leaving them for a while. I was doing another 12 hour shift on the Sunday so I went in a little early to talk to my boss who was amazing and told me I couldn’t miss an opportunity like this and that when I returned my job would be waiting for me.

So I worked all day Sunday which left me Monday, one day, to sort everything. I had to arrange to be at London Heathrow at 6am for my flight and I had to do shopping and pack for a 3 month trip. That was a crazy day but I pulled through and booked myself onto an overnight coach to London.

This all happened so quickly that it wasn’t until I was sat in Times Square with all my luggage that I realised what was going on. I was shit scared. I was alone in New York with a few hours to kill before my Greyhound down to Virginia. When I arrived in Virginia I’d have to meet with a perfect stranger at silly o’clock in the morning at a gas station and I’d be spending the next 10 weeks looking after kids. What the hell was I thinking applying for this?!

On top of all this my SIM card wasn’t working yet so I desperately tried to find a phone shop to get something so I could at least tell my folks that I was safe. They hadn’t heard from me after all since I got on the plane in London hours earlier. So I found an AT&T to buy a temporary SIM card so I could at least send one text to let them know I was safe. That didn’t work either and American phone plans are expensive! It took so long to get my phone working that my mum had been ringing the camp to see if I was there and of course I wasn’t yet I was in New York. She panics at the Brest of times, I can’t imagine what she was thinking.

I managed to contact camp though and tell them I had arrived in NY and that I would be on the Greyhound as planned to meet them in Exmore, VA. After a long coach trip and a short car ride into Camp Silver Beach in was again silly AM so I snook into a cabin with the other guys and went to bed.

I woke up with them all in the morning but fear got the better of me and I stayed in bed until they had all left. I knew they were heading to the canteen for breakfast so I got ready on my own and slowly made my way over. I can’t really remember what the reaction was when I walked in that first time. Although I do remember people saying they didn’t even realise I was there that morning when they got up.

Turns out I had absolutely nothing to worry about as everyone at the camp was amazing. I quickly settled in and of course my closest friends became some of the girls.The first week I was there was a training week so we had a few talks on safety and how to deal with the kids and we spent a few afternoons in the sun and enjoying the facilities at camp before it was overrun with children.

I was going to enjoy this.