AmeriCamp: My Experience!
In the summer of 2016 I stayed in the US for 12 weeks working at a Summer camp through AmeriCamp! I was working at a Summer Camp for children and adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities.
Working at Camp Loyaltown
The word disability often scares people, maybe people aren’t aware of how to interact with people with certain disabilities or just don’t know about disabilities. As someone whose brother has ADHD and Asperger’s syndrome and who is learning and teaching British Sign Language I feel it is important to learn and embrace disabilities. Starting working at a Summer camp was of course exciting and nerve wracking at the same time. I would be in a place that is completely alien to me looking after adults and children with disabilities, with people from around the world who I have never met. To me this was exciting, I like new challenges and I wanted to become more aware of the different types of disability and help the people who I was looking after have an amazing summer. I also got to work at a Summer camp with people from at least 30 different countries and I have kept in touch with many of them. AmeriCamp helped me through each stage of applying to work at Camp Loyaltown and gave me general information about working at a Summer camp. I even got to talk to someone who worked at a disability camp previously.
When choosing to apply to work at a Summer camp I was told at an orientation by people at AmeriCamp, disability camps are often left un-ticked in a box that your application will be sent to (which was sad). They asked who was working at disability camp this summer and asked us to stand and explained about the work we would be doing and how important it was, and at the end gave us all applause. I feel I have learnt so much more than if I went to a different summer camp. I have become more compassionate and patient, more aware of how to treat people and definitely more knowledgeable about disabilities. You may think you don’t have the skills or experience to go to a disability camp but I can guarantee you that other people going to that camp will feel the same. My camp provided me with all the skills I needed and information about the person I would be working with before the campers came. I guess one of the reasons I enjoyed it was because I was constantly busy and I felt needed by the people I was with. It was great getting to know someone so quick and you always felt very sad when they left! Yes, you may have shower people and dress them but when you see them enjoying camp or saying thank you, its the best thing. An example is from my friend Christian, he was working with someone who didn’t speak much and wore headphones most of the time because he was sensitive to noise. One of the last days here he said to Christian ‘Love you, Goodnight Christian’ it was the first time he had said his name, and it meant so much to him. I have many examples of my own, such as receiving multiple handmade cards, drawings and bracelets, and also seeing people smile, say thank you and giving you a hug. Furthermore, I met a few people’s parents too, who were all extremely grateful and I was kind of overwhelmed by this. Parents can often be nervous which is understandable, they provide their children with so much care and then they are at camp for a week or two. When they meet their children again they can see how much their children have enjoyed camp and they are always grateful!
I think about camp so much still and especially when I see posts of people that are going back to work there. It makes me sad I can’t go back this year but there is always next year!
– Jamie Arathoon