To Recharge

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Camp gives kids a safe, supportive place to grow and change within a community they’ve helped to create. This kind of personal accountability is a crucial life lesson, but of course not always the easiest to learn.

Just as siblings might bicker over shared toys or space back home, campers do tend to get into minor conflicts here and there as well. Some of you might have received letters that detail some of these challenges as they’ve come up. The group living environment will be new to many kids, and still challenging to those who have already experienced cabin life. Even for kids who have brothers and sisters at home, sharing a cabin with peers can be difficult.

For weekly maintenance, every cabin has a special sit-down time.  This time allows the cabin to discuss how things are going and address any problems, cabin rules that need to be tweaked, or any other issue that may have brewed in the previous week. In essence, this hour is a time for the cabins to fix anything that needs attention, adjustments, or airing out.

When spur-of-the-moment issues arise, Barbara, LBD and I are always around for cabin meetings, to give the kids and their counselors an opportunity to talk about their feelings. During this meeting, each camper has a turn to speak her mind so that there is only one person talking at a time. In these sessions, cabin counselors are always there to help with the frame work, and to guide their campers as they practice putting feelings into words in a friendly, constructive manner.

For some campers, this might the first time they engage in a healthy confrontation, and we encourage this kind of practice at caring for their emotional well-being.

These cabin meets are an important chance for each camper to recognize that she has an equal voice in her cabin family and that her feelings deserve to be heard. It may be difficult for a camper to hear from a cabinmate if she did something to hurt another’s feelings, but guilt and sadness settle once when she realizes the opportunity to change her behavior. At the end of every meeting, we see the campers walk back to their cabins with their heads held a little higher and their paces a little more in step with one another.

Once these conflicts are successfully overcome and behind them, campers tend to be more willing to share with each other on a much deeper level. Children and adolescents have a natural and healthy resilience, which enables them to move forward often more quickly than grown-ups. As we move into the third week of camp, most cabins have had their arguments and disagreements and have developed ways of adapting to each other and living together as a group. They’ve developed bunk rules and expectations; they understand their differences and have made peace with them. It takes hard work to get to this stage and a lot of input from counselors.

It is at this magical point when both counselors and campers alike start to really take a sense of pride in the little family unit they worked so hard to form. By now, everyone knows each other well and hopefully, they feel that they can rely on each other. There is a sense of interdependence, trust, and security among group members, who can now work together to accomplish common goals. That’s when we start to see a camp full of cabins that are overflowing with creative energy that can be channeled in ways that benefit both their own small little communities as well as the whole BT family.

I am constantly amazed by the intellect, creative energy, and spirit shown by Birch Trail girls. It’s true; camp life is charged with a special form of community energy, one defined by caring, compassion, and kindness.

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