It has now been almost two months since I left Camp Elphinstone in Canada and I am definitely sad to say goodbye. The camp itself was amazing, and the people in it only made it better. I really grew as a person during my time overseas, and I learnt so much. Not only how to sail and shoot arrows, but also how to interact with kids on an equal level while still remaining their leader.
The great thing about working with kids 24/7 is that they really bring out the inner child in you, and I would often find myself being just as mischievous and playful as the campers I was counselling. There is more to being a counsellor than just following a set timetable and telling the campers what/what not to do; it is all the things you do outside of the ordinary that really gets the kids having a true camp experience.
An event that really brought out the childish behaviour in me was one night, when, dressed all in black and with a glow stick in hand, I shut out all the lights in our cabin. Once an eerie silence fell after the initial shock, I informed my campers that we would be breaking the rules that night; in the form of a kitchen raid. In a rush of excitement, my girls donned their darkest clothing and once curfew patrol had come and gone, we snuck out, racing through the cabin rings and across the grassy banks to the kitchen. If only I’d had my camera to capture how, as one, we dropped to the ground, hiding in the shadows from the head chef. We were in and out of there in seconds, dashing back through the darkness as the chef yelled “Who’s been in my kitchen?!” at our retreating forms. Back in the cabin, filled with adrenalin, we feasted on our prize; ice-cream sandwiches.
Another time, with a school group of about 30, we sat in the dining hall after an evening’s activities, having our snack before bed. A small group of campers were trying to figure out some chords to play a song on the piano. I told them I knew how, and they insisted I play it for them. So I did. I began to sing along, and the small group around me joined in. The piano then became something of a magnet as more and more campers joined us, their teachers watching from the background. And so there I was, in the midst of a chorus of about 30 children, all singing “Someone Like You” by Adele at the top of their lungs. It was exhilarating to look around and see so many kids singing as equals, no one thinking they were too cool or better than anyone else. Once our spontaneous performance ended, my friend turned to me and said “Maya, you’re like the pied-piper!” I remember laughing, watching as the kids dispersed back into their different clusters, and knowing that for that one moment we had all come together with the innocence and freedom of childhood.
Volunteering at Camp Elphinstone was an absolutely incredible experience and I have Lattitude to thank for it because without them all of this never would have happened. I hope all those going to Elphi or on an alternative gap year in the future love it just as much as I did, and remember, the greatest counsellors are the ones who still know what it is to be a camper.
Camp Elphinstone, BC, Canada