My first week at Outdoor Adventure….127 bug bites, a poison ivy outbreak and the removal of 4 snakes from our equipment shed. Was it really worth it? 110%.
Just a few days in and we were already a strong team of eight. Spending 9am-8pm together consisted of permanent team work, never ending laughter, bickering and a group satisfaction of a job well done. I now realise I can take back what I just said. We were not a team of eight, but a family of eight. It’s hard to describe in words how quickly you become close to these strangers. How you would tell them everything that has happened in your life, every secret you have ever kept, every story you have ever told. These people that you met only a few days before now become your closest friends, your friends for life. This group is your second family – Camp family!!
After learning ‘the ropes’ of OA (pardon the pun), me and my new family had learnt a variety of skills including: the setting up of all ropes and equipment, belaying, zip wiring, shelter building, hiking, nature identification and of course what Camp is complete without someone knowledgeable on making the best fires for roasting Smores? Many of the children loved these activities and the smiles on their faces as well as the siren like screeches coming from their mouths, could not express the excitement as they reached the OA course. It was my job to lead these activities along with my team, and to keep these kids loving the OA course. However it was also my job to convert the haters, to the lovers…and it was this part of my job I loved the most.
Imagine that feeling of changing a life. Tears streamed, snot dripped, sweat flowed and breathing was heavy…and it was my job to take control of this situation and to keep the child calm. We looked out 50 foot below, clipped onto the zip wire. The fear of a child had set in bad. It was easy enough to let the child go back and get belayed back down, but this isn’t what this job is about! No, it’s about encouraging a child to conquer their fears, about encouragement, about patience and about determination. A good specialist runs the activity well and is loved by the kids, but a great specialist will go that extra mile, even if it means the child hates you at the time. I can truly say I have never felt such an amazing feeling than finally persuading a child to go down the zip wire, even though they are terrified. Do I do this for my own gain? No is simply the answer. Why do I do this then? Imagine conquering your fears at this young age. This one push of the boundary could set this child up for life. It really is a factor that can change their future as it can cause them to overcome future obstacles. And nothing is better than a child conquering the fear of heights, and then you seeing them back for a second try, because once on the zip wire is no longer enough for them.
This satisfaction can be felt everyday on the OA course, it most certainly is not just a one-time event. However don’t think the job is all glamorous, because it most certainly isn’t. The job isn’t easy and it certainly can be stressful. 6 hours sleep per night if you’re lucky and working up a sweat each day in 30 degree heat makes you physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted. Some days you will even question why you are there! But at the end of each day you will always realise why. As the kids leave your area and you wind down with your OA family by a Camp fire, reflecting on the day’s events, telling stories, making jokes, singing songs and finally noticing what an impact you really do make on these children’s lives. You might not know it at first…I certainly didn’t! But on that final night when every single one of them kids hugs you and tells you that they love you, it is then you really will know, and it is that feeling which you will not get anywhere else. It is that feeling that will make you want to return to Camp.