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Review for Summer Camp Inc, Bridgton, ME, USA

Rating: 5 stars  

The Summer Camp exceeds any expectations its generic name may suggest. It's more than any camp I ever attended or worked at in my 22 years before I joined the staff there last summer. The Summer Camp brings girls from cities and rural areas around New England. It's fun, it's free, it's a sanctuary for these girls, many whom have had to face more adversity in their childhoods than many will for their entire lives. For 10 days each year, girls aged as young as 5 and as old as 18 come to the little camp in Bridgton, Maine for one of 5 sessions. They come on scholarships and many have never left the cities from which they arrive. They come from poverty, they come from group homes, they come from foster homes, they come from abuse, disorders, and though they might not be totally aware of it at such a young age, they come to The Summer Camp to overcome all of this.

The Summer Camp is small, only 8 cabins, but while the girls are there, camp becomes an extended family, and certainly one more stable and loving than the homes situations many are used to. It gives these girls a breath of fresh air, a chance to explore not only the outdoors, but to explore themselves and build their own community. It's an amazing place that allows these girls to realize there is more around them than the circumstances they were born into and it gives them a chance to build something that is truly their own.

We play games, we swim, dance...we go on camp out, we sing, make s'mores... Last summer I worked in the library and began maybe a career in literacy building and youth empowerment through creative writing. When they arrived at the library, many were less than thrilled to be in such an academic setting at camp, but I tried my hardest to help them see that writing can set them free. We made journals and did creative fiction and nonfiction prompts. They all took books back to their cabin and it was fun for me to help them select titles that I had had at my disposal but they had never heard of. It was eyeopening for me to hear what they wrote, to see how sharing helped them feel good about themselves and the trusting relationships I was able to form with them in the matter of a few days. I have never worked in such a rewarding environment, and I've been working with kids since I was still one myself (age 13).

The Summer Camp is magical for many reasons. But I think what sets this place apart from any other camp I have encountered is that it isn't just a camp. It's a home. No matter who jumps off that bus, no matter where they've been, what baggage they bring with them, there is something for them to discover, to work on, to take home with them. As a counselor, I think I learned and loved camp just as much as the campers.

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

I think it's a good sign of a successful place when the employees' friends have to tell them to stop talking about it. My experiences at camp have been more formative than I could imagine. After my summer there, I moved to California to do Americorps and work with ESL/ at-risk kids in an elementary school. My training as a counselor and my experiences with those girls gave me invaluable skills for this job and the ability to look beyond the less than desirable behaviors that manifest themselves.

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

I would make some sort of safe house with some sort of working therapist for the girls to go to when they have breakdowns that adversely affect their behavior. Though the counselors act as this, I think it would be constructive for the girls to have someone to talk to and know they're not necessarily getting in trouble.

Role:  Volunteer & I was a counselor and am now thinking about pursuing a master's in social work or art therapy .