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Each year around this time our web-site reawakens with information and forms for the next summer camp. We were so lucky with the last camp (2016). The weather was just incredible and the helper team and children were all in such a good space throughout. I really felt that we were creating a genuine, creative, ‘extended family’ experience for everyone. I can still feel it now all these months later and know just how much these camps energise, enthuse and inspire me year after year. Yes there is always that obligatory trepidation before each camp as well – nothing in life is guaranteed – but somehow these camps keep doing it for me, the children and all the helpers who simply keep returning year after year. They are all young students who offer 2 weeks of their precious holidays and dedicate themselves to the children entirely voluntarily each year. Indeed none of us is paid and the modest surplus after each camp is used exclusively to replace and upgrade equipment and to sponsor participants for our annual Youth Camp (Stroud Youth Initiative) held during Easter each year. This camp in 2017 will be my 17th camp!! Aaron
The 2015 camp turned out to be a little wetter than we would have liked but certainly a very positive and fulfilling experience for all. We had 63 children and some 33 helpers and one dog (Gus the pug!). I have never seen so many children and helpers in tears saying goodbye and not wanting to go home at the end of the camp. It’s hard to know what to put that down to. Certainly the helper team really came on board with creative ideas and enthusiasm. It was also our second year with a ‘Youth’ group for the 14- 15 yr olds and they were a really strong and engaged group many of whom have said they want to return as helpers next year. That’s exactly what it’s all about.
Every year I think we’re not going to get the numbers and then lo and behold we do. And so again this year we now have exactly 60 children signed up. A great number for a good social dynamic. The weather forecast is looking good and the helpers are enthusiastic and prepared. On Tuesday the 14th the helper team arrives to set up camp – dig loos, put up tents, transform the barn into a kitchen, dining area, circle meeting area, craft area etc And generally bond and prepare for the arrival of the children on the 18th. Exciting! – Aaron
I wanted to share with you this article by someone who has been a helper with us from the beginning and is jointly leading the camp this year (2015). Thanks Dom for sharing your experience with us.
A helper’s perspective
I have now been a group helper since these camps began four years ago and every year and I never cease to be amazed, amused, challenged, utterly exhausted, and changed by the children on the camp. Even though I have never been on these camps as a child, they have played a very important role in my life and I have come to absolutely believe the importance of what it represents.
At the beginning of every camp many of the children come with a mask, pretending to be something they are not. Gradually as the camp progresses these facades are dropped and the children become freer and freer – an environment is created where children are allowed to be children. The children become much more spontaneous and creative and less afraid to show their true colours. An idea that Aaron has expressed to the helpers in our close of day service which takes place every evening is that we also help create an environment where the children can experience what is necessary for them to work with (karma) and meet what it is to human. He also talks openly to us about spiritual ideas like creating a ‘camp angel’, and our effect on the elemental world which I find very interesting and refreshing. We have also discussed ideas such as the deterioration and materialisation of the cultural and soul/inner lives of people in the west, and how the camp attempts to counter these trends.
It is always amazing to see the transformations the children undergo during the camp, it often seems that the worries the Parents have about their children become irrelevant on camp. The children often continue sing the camp songs tell their parents about all the fun experiences they had and that they miss the friends, stories, activities and all the interesting things they did. This fantastic atmosphere that is created provides a perfect opportunity for some of the more shy children to come out of their shells and reinvent themselves in this new social situation, often those who you would least expect.
The Camp is one of the most intense learning curves of the year, not just for the children who are going through massive transitions but also for the helpers who are essentially having a ‘crash course in life’. As a helper you are constantly having to deal with unexpected challenges such as homesickness, friction between children, children who are uninterested and even bedwetting, which requires you to find creative and playful solutions to and brings out the best in you.
The last thing I want to point out is Aaron who’s experience, drive and vision has brought this camp about in the first place. It is also his energy, charisma and straightforward advice which has inspired the helpers to take leaps of courage and the children to embrace the camp experience wholeheartedly. I only wish I had been a child on these camps myself!
Dominic Corbett Group Leader