My Nonprofit Reviews
Review for Chewonki Foundation Inc, Wiscasset, ME, USA
Review of Chewonki Camp for Girls. Our daughter attended this camp in the summer of 2009. We would NOT recommend this camp. Unlike the Boy’s Camp, the Girl’s Camp is far more rigid with emphasis on areas one would not expect. Focusing on a girl’s willingness to try what the camp defines as delicious food rather than a girl developing independence to make one’s own choices is one example. We will focus on the rigid rules around food because it is unexpected when one is choosing a camp and this rigidity extends to other aspects of how the girl’s camp is run.
Food was a particular concern of ours due to a diagnosed medical condition diagnosed at a leading Children’s Hospital that limits the variety of foods our daughter can eat. She needs simply cooked foods with no spices or strong textures. The camp director, Genell Vashro, said that alternatives would be provided to her.
While the camp did provide alternative to vegans, it did not to our daughter. Instead, we assume the director made a judgment that our daughter’s condition was actually pickiness and arrogantly thought that by forcing our daughter to eat the camp’s food, her condition would disappear. Even when a food made her physically ill, she was forced to eat that same food again several days later in front of the entire camp. Our daughter adopted a dangerous strategy to eat little until a food appeared that she could tolerate and then she binged. Our daughter was not alone she said. Many girls who did not like the food also did a mild form of fasting and binging.
The director assumes that girls who do not like the camp’s unusual food need “weaning off their addiction to sugar and their expectation of a processed-food diet.” We suspect that most, if not all, parents who choose to send their girls to a remote wilderness camp are not feeding their children a processed food diet. Be sure to read “Food meets Philosophy” in the fall 2009 newsletter (http://www.chewonki.org/alumni/thechronicle.asp) to understand the policies. We were surprised that the girls receive letters at the end of the summer assessing whether they ate the food heartily. Our daughter’s letter read: “Sometimes you were a bit reluctant to try new things such as food. We hope that you realize and appreciate where our food comes from, and will be willing to try new adventures.” We were stunned that trying new foods was important enough to make it into a letter to our daughter about her camp experience—that was certainly not one of our goals in sending her to camp!
The camp had many spoken and unspoken rules that lead to a tightly controlled environment. It was not what we hoped for in a camp: It was not a place to spread your wings.
After the summer was over, we talked to Genell Vashro, who basically dismissed our concerns. We then wrote to the president and the Chairman of the Board about our concern about their rigid approach to food as well as other aspects of the camp. For months and months, we didn’t get a reply, despite several phone calls to follow up. Finally, we did have a lengthy phone conversation with the president, who listened and said he would follow up with us, which he never did. (This was more than 3 months ago.) So we don’t know if the camp has implemented any changes. We hope it has, particularly since it is dealing with girls at a vulnerable age when eating disorders emerge for so many.
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