Cultural exchange is inevitable at camp; put a child in a new situation, with new people, and role models who foster the building of relationships, and our campers are bound to learn something new about someone. This exchange involves so many concepts: where we are from, what we eat, how old we are, and our past experiences at camp. Frost Valley even teaches core values of Community, Diversity, Inclusiveness, and Respect, which all contribute to this cultural exchange. We make it a part of every day at camp, and we make it a comfortable situation, encouraging our campers to learn about one another, creating curiosity about the world around them.
One of the most celebrated ways of this cultural exchange begins even before the campers arrive. While we work in the office during the cold winter months, missing our campers and the warm sun, we spend weeks interviewing and hiring the staff members that will be the counselors for the upcoming summer. When we hire the staff for each department, we look for role models that commit themselves to our core values. I truly believe that the staff that we hire are the best examples of ways that we can create cultural exchange, hiring staff that are respectful and accepting of those different than themselves.
The Activities Team, also known as the A-Team, provides the campers with a variety of Specialties, Feeling Goods, Evening Programs, and Theme Days that highlight the amazing talents that our staff bring to camp, focusing on the cultural exchange for the entire community. When the Tacoma and Lenape campers go to Woodshop, they will learn techniques that Nicolas learned growing up in Columbia. When Pokey Totem learns a new dance routine, they will be taught by Suleyman, who was a contestant on So You Think You Can Dance Turkey. When swimming in the lake, all of our campers are watched by lifeguards from England, Wales, New Zealand, Australia, Ireland and the United States.
And our counselors are committed to this exchange as much as we are. Gina, a Farm Camp counselor from Taiwan describes being an international camp staff as follows:
“It was an AWESOME SUMMER in Frost Valley YMCA! I have a lot of experiences, working in the camps in my country, Taiwan. However, the summer in the Farm Camp was the BEST!! Thanks to my camp director, supervisors and co-partners, I felt supported and motivated to be an international counselor. They were always available to give you a hand and some suggestion to run the cultural programs for our campers.”
To the right is a photo of Gina, teaching the Farm Campers how to use chopsticks.
How lucky are we? Not only do we give campers the opportunity to learn new skills and hobbies, but they are learning from people all over the world. We have been lucky enough at Frost Valley to have this privilege for a very long time, and now having International Staff at camp is just the way it is. Yes, it is still novel to the kids when their counselors have a british accent every year, but being surrounded by people that are different from themselves is the norm. And isn’t that something we should all celebrate?
Two of our biggest celebrations are our theme days during session 1 and 2: Its a Small World Carnival and Olympix. At the Small World Carnival, all of our staff members from each country represented at camp set up a carnival booth with some type of cultural activity, sharing with the campers a part of their home. During Olympix, our team captains are lead by the citizens of those countries represented. Watching our staff members share their culture with the campers is one of the highlights of my job. When the campers develop global perspective and acceptance, the community we create at Frost Valley becomes that much more powerful.
So we are extremely excited for this summer’s cultural exchange. The staff are representing 12 different countries, and the campers themselves will come from all over the world. Like every year at camp, we are positively impacted by the people we are surrounded with, and this year we are excited to learn about more cultures, build relationships with more people, and develop more curiosity for the world that we are part of.
And don’t worry, we will be posting pictures and blogs all summer of our cultural activities, exchanges, and friendships!
With excitement for summer,
Resident Camp Activities Director