Summer Camp

When I was a kid I had the opportunity to be a CIT (counselor- in- training) at a Girl Scout day camp.  A couple of summers later I was a Sr. Counselor at an overnight co-ed camp in New Hampshire complete with horseback riding, tennis courts and swimming. These were some of my first lessons in leadership.  As Nature Counselor, my responsibilities included keeping my group together on hikes, knowing what to do if someone fell and got injured, and imparting some sound ecological tidbits. I also shared responsibility with another counselor for a cabin full of 8 girls. This involved everything from making sure everyone got up and got to breakfast in time to comforting a homesick camper. 

There were occasional disputes. But, in an atmosphere filled with carefree, fun activities complemented by three home-cooked meals a day; they were few and far between. In general it was a safe, nourishing environment for all.  Most were sad when the summer ended, and looked forward to returning the next summer.

Compare this to a summer camp described in the New York Times. It’s a  tent camp of  homeless people from a variety of backgrounds, set up under a bridge in Providence, RI known as Camp Runamuck. The Camp director is a 55 year old man, voted into this leadership position. Known as the chief he supports sound  ecological behaviors, as I once did when he tells a young litterer to correctly dispose of a plastic bottle.  Rather than recreational activities these campers have chores  as this excerpt describes.”the recycled-can area (the money is used for ice and propane); the area for garbage bags that will be discreetly dropped in nearby Dumpsters at night”

Horseshoes provide some sport. Though the camp is located by the Providence River, I don’t think swimming is allowed. It appears the chief handles his responsibilities well, “In the last couple of hours the chief has resolved a conflict about tarp distribution, hugged a pregnant woman who mistakenly thought she had been kicked off the island, conferred with outreach workers and helped with dinner preparations. He is also thinking about tomorrow.”  Summer camp always ends, like it or not. And, as this article explains they will not be able to stay at this location much longer. Plans are being made to move. Some may find other places to stay, and the chief will soon lead the rest to their next temporary spot.  I recognize the parallels in leadership experiences here to my summer camp of years ago.  But, that’s where the similarities end.  Thankfully, leadership knows no bounds, even when society does.

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1 comment so far

  1. wanda on

    Wow. That is just heart-breaking. I grew up in New Orleans, but now live about 30 miles from there. There are tent cities under the overpass very close to the heart of the city. They were there before Katrina and are still there today.

    I never stopped to wonder if there were leaders there who organized this down-on-their-luck group. Very poignant.


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