It may be 3 years ago now but to me it still feels like yesterday when I made the decision to apply to do Camp America. I had heard about it from friends and was something I had looked into and I wanted the opportunity to have a summer of a lifetime doing something I love – working with children as well as the opportunity to see America and become independent. It’s not an easy decision. I was leaving Northern Ireland, away from my family, flying across to the United States to live and work there for 3 months. I’d been away from family before but this was going to be the longest time away from them.
The first year I went to camp, I remember being with the group of first timers on the bus coming up the massive hill we had up to camp thinking what have I let myself in for, a bundle of nerves and butterflies built up inside me but as soon as I stepped off the bus and met everybody they soon disappeared. Camp was amazing. It didn’t matter how silly you looked or felt, whether it be dressing up for the kids or singing camp songs at the top of your lungs, everybody enjoyed it and I felt like an inner kid again.
Green Chimneys for me was very rewarding and an amazing experience. Working as a special needs counsellor, there were challenges as I faced difficult and sometimes challenging behaviours but to have 3 months working with 7 amazing kids, teaching them about the world around them and giving them a summer of a lifetime, it was the best feeling ever.
To be able to go back and return to do it a 2nd year running, it was the amazing and I felt like the luckiest person. I requested to go back and work with the same kids I had the 1st year which was allowed. To see the children I had the 1st year arrive back to start another summer and say “I remember you” with big grins on their faces, it was such an emotional and happy feeling knowing that I’d made an impact in their lives to an extent that they remembered me the second year and was happy that I was back for another summer working with them.
It was safe to say saying goodbye to them and camp at the end was one of the hardest and emotional things I’ve had to do. Tears will be shed and tissues required, no doubt about it.
Green Chimneys has changed me and made me a better person. It has taught me so much about myself and given me a lot of confidence and self – esteem. If you had told me when I was younger that I’m going to go to America for 3 months and return for a second summer the next year, I wouldn’t have believed it but I have and it has been the best experience I have and probably ever will have done.
Camp to me is like having a second family. Living and working with the people around you, you become very close and form close friendships which I now have and still keep in touch with. I now have friends all over the world, going back and forth seeing one of my best friends in England to messaging friends in Australia.
To people reading this thinking about doing Camp America, go for it!! Don’t be afraid to challenge yourselves. If you love working with children and want to try something new, apply now!! You will not regret it.
Green Chimneys will always hold a place in my heart and we had a quote from Dr Seuss’s “The Lorax” which the managers always told us and has stayed with me and I want to share it with you: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, it’s not.”
Thank you everybody in Camp America offices and Green Chimneys for giving me the opportunity to go out and work with an amazing camp and some amazing people. I will never forget it and will never stop spontaneously shouting “THIS IS A REPEAT AFTER ME SONG!!”
Helen - Green Chimneys (2015/2016)