We talk often about Camp being ‘transformational’. This is the word our newest Seeds use to describe their experience, and it’s how Seeds who are well into their careers reflect upon their time from decades earlier as teenagers in Maine.
But when a word is used over and over, it can lose meaning. So we asked counselors at the end of each session this summer to share specific examples of moments they have witnessed among their campers that shed a light on what it means to be transformed.
Perhaps you might find yourself changed after reading these.
• I worked as a group challenge counselor, and we had a female camper of color who was also Muslim and wears a hijab.
During our first couple of Group Challenge sessions, it was very visible how—I don’t want to say intimidated—how aware she was of the group dynamics, given that we had at least two very masculine white, male campers.
She was very aware of herself, the way she presents and carries herself. And she was very silent in these first two meetings. But starting in the third session, she began getting more vocal.
We got to the point where we had this challenge called “The Islands.” There are two islands where you need to be silent if you’re stepping on them. At some point, she was advised by one of the male campers to go on one of the silent islands. But her reply was, “We’re not gonna complete the challenge without my voice, and I have the advice and knowledge we need to complete this challenge. I’m not going to go to any of the silent islands.”
Her voice eventually turned into a group agreement that one of the two white male campers should be on the silent island. She ended up leading the whole group activity and completed the group challenge. I was very inspired by that moment, and the many conversations that the group had starting from that moment.
• I had a girl in my bunk last year, who had a really difficult time at Camp for most of the session, until we entered Color Games.
That really shifted things for her. She had been feeling really lonely, but then she started interacting with people during Color Games. That was what motivated her to come back as a PS, finally feeling that connection and that she was really contributing to Camp in an important way. I saw her now this summer and she feels empowered here, she feels as if she is making a difference, and that her voice is heard.
• I had a camper from Jerusalem, who, at the beginning of Camp, was really shy and really scared about talking in big groups.
He never wanted anyone to take his picture and he thought that he didn’t have anything useful to say in dialogue. He would come back to the table every day and report that, “I didn’t say anything today; I don’t think I have anything good.” And he was also really nervous how much everyone danced at Camp. He was like, “Why are you guys chanting all the time?”
But about two weeks in, he came to the table and said, “I just spoke for the first time.” He said that it felt good to speak in that space. Just seeing him around Camp toward the end too—he was always asking Bobbie to take pictures of him. He was dancing around Camp, he was begging me to go to the Small Hall for the dance party because he was so into it. And even when he left Camp, he was like, “I wish that I had taken more pictures.”
So just to see that transformation from “I don’t want anyone to see me” to “I deserve to be seen” was one of the most powerful experiences I’ve seen from a camper.
• I had a camper in one of my Group Challenge sessions who said his favorite part of Camp was being there after dialogue, when everyone comes out.
He liked checking in on them to see how they are doing and to take care of them. He was clearly the leader of the group, and in group challenge we were very frequently telling him that he wasn’t allowed to speak, or that he had to wear a blindfold, to give other campers the opportunity for leadership. He always complained about that and didn’t like it.
Near the end of Camp, I saw him sitting by himself, and asked him what was going on. He started talking about how he was realizing why he was always silenced or blindfolded, and what it meant for him to be a leader. And how all of the times that he spent taking care of other campers, he wasn’t taking care of himself—or there was no one to take care of him.
It was a really powerful moment to see him finally acknowledge that there are times when he needs to take care of himself, or be taken care of, and that he cannot always be the leader. There are other people who have those capabilities, and so it’s okay if he steps back to take care of himself, because other people will still be taken care of.
• I came to know this particular camper during Color Games, and the ways that she grew were through sports.
I think she is a very quiet person by nature. I saw her during bunk rotation and how she kept to herself. The growth I saw in her during Color Games was insane.
I chose her to come play basketball, and she didn’t believe it at all. She came to the court saying, “I’ve never played basketball before.” But during Color Games, she did wonders. In the Hajime run, she ran from the soccer field lap to the main gate, and I happened to be the one who was running behind her. Once she finished the race, she just hugged me, and told me how my being there meant a lot to her. It made me think about how little things can make people realize that they are a small part of a big dream. That they’re contributing to something larger than themselves. The change I saw in her was really magnificent.