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Monday, November 18, 2013

An International view of YMCA Camp Wa Wa Segowea!

Just as it has been the past couple of years, we've already had our first snowfall of the season here at camp!  It was just a dusting, but indeed it was a sign that winter and the holidays are quickly approaching.   We have a couple of events to let you know about coming up during this holiday season.

The first is the "First YMCA Camp Wa Wa Segowea Summer 2013 reunion"!  It's taking place December 8th from 1-3pm at the Winsted CT YMCA.  Bring your bathing suit and a towel as it's an afternoon of fun at the Winsted pool.  Here's the flyer-

The second is an annual fundraiser for camp and that's Wa Wa Giftwrapping!  It's taking place all day on December 21st at Barnes and Noble, 2518 South Road in Poughkeepsie, NY.  Stop by and pickup those last minute Christmas presents and get them gift wrapped by volunteers for Camp!  All money raised will go towards scholarships for kids to go to camp.

International camp counsellors are not new to Camp Wa Wa Segowea.  We have had many counsellors through the years from foreign lands such as Scotland, Denmark, Germany, China, England and others and 2013 was no different.  We were lucky to hire two wonderful counsellors from England,  Emma Dryden and Mike Williams, who were mentioned in a previous blog post. ( 

                             Here's the two of them participating in the Camp Olympics!

Emma shared with us her take on being a Camp counsellor at Wa Wa and spending her first summer in the U.S. and in turn, we're happy and proud to share it with you.   Thank you Emma!

Lucky Charms, flag raising and summer camp itself were all foreign to me at the beginning of this summer. I had never done a friendship circle before; I didn’t know the words to any campfire songs and what on earth was a s’more?! As a 19 year old British girl, to say I was out of my depth would be an understatement, but over nine weeks, Camp Wa Wa Segowea and it’s traditions became almost second nature to me.

Back in March, when I first got the job, I was not at all prepared for what summer 2013 had in store for me. I was promised ‘the summer of my life’ and a ‘life-changing experience’ but in reality, I just thought spending the summer in America would be a nice way to spend three months! Little did I know that I would have the summer of my life, a life-changing experience and memories that will last a lifetime.

I arrived at camp on a rather chilly June day, feeling apprehensive about what was to follow in the next few weeks. Camp Wa Wa’s quirky features were a shock to me- no glass in the windows, no locks on the cabins and, without being full of campers, Smith Lodge looked a little spooky to me! But I was reassured by the friendly faces of the soon-to-be friends that greeted me and made me feel at home.

Before 50+ kids were unleashed upon us in just the first session, we had to undergo some intense staff training, including, for some of us, lifeguard training, which was tough in the surprisingly cold conditions we had in June! By the end of the two weeks of training and setting up camp, having bonded as a staff team, we felt as ready as possible for camp to begin. Although, I was rather daunted at the idea of being responsible for so many people’s children, I knew I had the best support network from my fellow counsellors, camp volunteers and my friends and family back at home.

The following seven weeks, were full of fun, laughter, s’mores and campfire songs. I learned that: knockout is a very addictive game, Americans have an addiction to hot sauce, it’s difficult, but not impossible, to get children to participate in swim class on a cold day, receiving a friendship bracelet is like receiving a medal, wearing socks with flip flops is ok, girls can’t get enough of ‘spa day’,  finding a bear in the dumpster is a regular occurrence, the end of session dance is the most anticipated event of the year for an eleven year old girl, and that nothing is more precious than an extended rest hour. 

However, amongst the days of rope swinging, water trampolining, sailing, swimming and archery, the true essence of camp became apparent to me during the fortnightly Camp Olympics- sportsmanship, teamwork and enthusiasm bubbled out of every child and staff member, and seeing a camper congratulate their opponent after the swim across the lake or cheer on the determined last pair of the three-legged race, made me so proud and honoured to be involved with such amazing children at a camp, which encourages participation and respect for others. On these days, being a camp counsellor was the most enjoyable and rewarding job I could think of.

Not only did my role as camp counsellor involve looking after a cabin of excitable eleven year old girls; who allowed me to be the One Direction-loving, girly-girl that I am, I was also required to teach swimming, boating and sailing. The latter was my absolute favourite to teach.  Every day I spent my afternoons on the beautiful Harmon Pond helping improve a small group of campers sailing skills as well as having a lot of fun. Yes it was sometimes difficult to coerce the older girls to swim out to their boats on some of the cooler days of the summer, but I hope that they thought it was worth it! My lessons didn’t always go to plan but one of the activities that popped up very frequently was a game invented between myself and a keen camper: Pirates. Rules were invented along the way, developing the game into a very complex one, but let’s just say that all my sailors were very confident at righting a capsized boat by the end of the summer! I found my role as an instructor very rewarding, watching my campers skills improve and see them having fun along the way.

That’s not to say being a camp counsellor is a breeze, as at times it was far from being the laid-back summer job, which I naively thought it would be when I first applied!  Being a counsellor is a 24/7 job (despite what it says in the contract!) and exhaustion, stress and homesickness definitely set in at times for me: when my skills classes didn’t go quite to plan, when the weather turned cold or when one of my campers had severe homesickness, and nothing I said or did could make them feel any better; that’s when I started to doubt my ability as a counsellor and as a role model. I can honestly say that if it weren’t for the support, encouragement and generosity from my fellow counsellors and senior staff, the outlet they gave me to let it all out and have fun, I wouldn’t have made it through the summer. The friendships and relationships I built this summer are some of the strongest and best ones I’ve ever had and I will treasure them forever.

Camp Wa Wa Segowea- I could hardly say the name at the beginning of summer and yet now it has become like a second home within a matter of weeks, and a place, which I am determined to make part of my life for many years to come. Wa Wa is a small, humble camp. It doesn’t boast state of the art facilities, offer hundreds of different activities, it doesn’t even have mobile phone reception! But one of the many things I learned this summer was that expensive equipment and fancy facilities aren’t needed in order to engage children in developing their confidence, character and skills. 

Camp is like Disneyland: a community away from the real world, which gives children and adults alike, the space to be themselves, learn something new and have the best summer ever!

Emma is now in her first year of attending University in England.  She's very busy, studying hard and hopes to be able to return to Wa Wa for the summer of 2014!