The day the first campers were to arrive was hectic for all staff whether it was their first or fifteenth time experiencing camp. There was so much to do including cleaning, setting up rooms, making posters, and checking in with nurses, that there was no time to be nervous. As cars started pulling up and kids got dropped off it became clear early on that some kids would be more of a handful than others.
For my first buddy group I was paired with a return staff member that was able to show me the ropes for the first few days at Camp Squamish. The goal is to let the kids experience everything they want at camp while being safe and having fun, which is of course the most important part. Each day begins at the crack of dawn, 7:20am to be specific, when all staff are expected to be in the camper dorms and ready to go. Depending on your individual group that week and how much time they need to get ready for the day, wake-up is anytime before breakfast at 8:30am. Mealtimes are by far the most exciting, hectic, and stressful times at camp because there are so many things going on all at once. There are two counsellors per group of six kids, as well as any person support workers, that need to get breakfast on the table all while keeping allergies, dietary restrictions, and personal preference in mind. This may sound easy, but when you have staff singing sing-a-long songs, people banging on tables, programmers announcing daily activities, and campers going to the bathroom and washing hands, it’s easy to get distracted.
Following breakfast, the regular programs for that specific day are open. This may include the pool, climbing wall, big swing, low ropes, arts and crafts, or a trip to the lake for canoeing. Later on in the week it is also a chance to tie-dye t-shirts and watch counsellors get called to Kangaroo Kourt for misbehaving during the week. After morning regular programs comes lunch at 12:30pm, another meal time and another chance to sing and dance in front of campers in the dining hall. Following lunch is an all camp activity which usually includes stations for each buddy group to rotate through, or a photo scavenger hunt around camp. At 3:45pm it’s snack time and then rest break from 4:00pm to 5:15pm; this seems like a short amount of time but just over an hour break during a possible 15 hour day gives counsellors time to take a nap, shower, or have some much-needed alone time.
After rest break is dinner in the dining hall, except if your buddy group is at Camp Out that night, then it’s time to pack up sleeping bags, toothbrushes, and pajamas before heading out to the outdoor pursuits area for dinner, camp songs, sleeping under the stars in tents, and of course s’mores! If it’s not your group’s turn for Camp Out, then your group can choose another activity, unless it’s movie night in the dorms or dance party on the last night of the week. When all is said and done it’s time for a snack then bed; usually at this point it’s been a pretty exhausting day for campers and counsellors alike and the excitement starts all over again tomorrow.
Advice for Others
After spending a summer at camp with amazing people, there are two pieces of advice I would give to anyone thinking about working at any summer camp, but particularly with the BC Easter Seals. First would be to be prepared for the most exciting, exhausting, rewarding, inspirational, and fun summer of your life. This job forces you to prioritize daily tasks such as eating, sleeping, exercising, and showering, all while making sure you are prepared to give campers your full and undivided attention and care they need to have the best week of their summer. Second would be to take advantage of your co-workers. The key people that helped me this work term were the personal support workers or PSW's that accompanied campers to camp this summer when they needed one-on-one support. It was amazing to be able to talk with them and ask about their experiences in their line of work and what they love about their job and if their was anything they wish they could change. Their insight gave me an inside look into the this line of work and how any child can thrive as long as you give them the tools and support to do so.
Beyond the Blog
For more opportunities like Rachael's visit SFU's BPK co-op page!