go to camp

all photos taken with fujifilm x30

I realized today that every year around this time I disappear for a week, but don't really talk about why beyond saying "I'm going to camp". I've been saying that for eight of the last ten years I've been in 4-H, and I decided that this was the year in which I share with you all why it's so special for me. 

Four years ago, after occurring every summer for decades, my camp did not exist. Three years ago, we endured a stomach virus, rain, loss of electricity, and over three quarters of our staff, campers, and adult volunteers falling ill. Two year ago, we barely made the minimum attendance for campers. This year, Sacramento County 4-H Resident Camp had a full staff, a waitlist of kids wanting to attend, sunshine every day, and I was Camp Director. 

When you’re a kid, like I was (a long time ago), getting off the bus at camp, it’s all fun. You make icebox candles, play in the lake, and throw water balloons at your group leaders. You lie in the crunchy grass next to your new best friend and look at the stars you can’t see from your home in the city.  When you’re a staffer, getting out of your car two days before the campers arrive, you can already feel the fun and sunburn setting in. When we unload the hundreds of pounds of food we need, you hear the clamor of two hundred happy people sharing a delicious meal. You shove your co-leaders into the not-quite-swept-out corner of the cabin with the spiders. You sleep deep that night, knowing you won’t again for a while, not without at least five little hands shaking you awake for a bathroom run.

At the start of the week, you don't know the kids those hands are attached to. Some are 4-Hers, some aren’t (yet). They come from different neighborhoods, different socioeconomic backrounds, and vastly different lives. Camp is a special place where all these kids come together and learn a lot about life without even realizing it. Through our programming, we teach them not just arts and crafts, but about healthy relationships, self reliance, and the importance of engaging with your community. We also instill a sense of pride in their program, which is seen when the camper becomes the staffer. I’ve been attending camp since I was 10 years old, and have served on staff since I was 15.

There’s a reason camp is special, and it’s different for everyone. For me, a city girl who is severely allergic to mosquitoes and doesn’t like to go camping, camp is a family formed in a program I love. Camp is starting committee meetings in December, and spending hours interviewing staff to add to that family. Camp is having serious discussions with nine year olds about the importance of the bedtime stories we tell at the end of the day. Camp is knowing that every morning, for one week, I am given the privilege to shape a childs life. Over the years, that has shaped me as person. 

I consider  4-H Resident Camp my project of excellence, aka the best thing I've done as a 4-H'er because it hasn’t just changed me - it’s changing a child, a community, and itself, every summer.

It's also drastically changing my skin, because hundreds of bug bites over the years have left me looking rough man

x Justina 

ps. if you want to learn more about the California 4-H Program, or my camp, feel free to email me or click here. 

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1 comment:

  1. Your post is very interesting in particular these pictures. Love your post!
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