A Sense of Belonging
I’m writing on calm seas while I cross from Victoria to Vancouver on the ferry. I have enjoyed a terrific day of travel with my sister (Pammer) as we ventured from snowy Whistler to beautiful Victoria where Pam will visit to welcome a new baby to our family. It’s a wee boy and his name is Joseph. Congratulations Starr, Dani and big brother James!
The purpose of my western trek was to have a pre-Christmas visit with my two siblings and some extended family members. Our children will not be joining us at home in Perth this Christmas. Our eldest son (Elwood) will be in Costa Rica, and our youngest son will be in the Vancouver area. Our “western stray” (Ludwig) is experiencing the challenging slopes of Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains. I have been lucky enough to enjoy a few fantastic days of skiing with him (in lieu of Christmas) and with his lifelong friend Duke.
An unexpected coffee rendezvous was organized a few days ago with several alumni staff from my early days in camping. We were all staff at Camp Kawabi. The exact number of years gone by when we worked together is not really that important; let’s say we worked together late in the 70’s (that’s 1970’s). There we were: Murf, Stew, Duff and myself at a trendy (or groovy) coffee shop in West Vancouver getting caught up. In three-fifths of an instant, we were talking and sharing stories as if no time had elapsed since our days on the swim docks, in sailboats, in the Lodge or in the Craft Shop. We must have spent a couple of hours together and I can’t remember a lull or pause in any of the conversations. It seemed we were almost competing to find airtime to get in one more bit of news or to recollect one more past camp event.
It has occurred to me many times when I have reconnected with my camping peers how exceptional the sense of belonging is within this group. I’m not exactly sure just how big your group is. There are no membership requirements to help define eras or people and I think it’s perfect that way; simply a group of people who are friends, mentors, confidants, colleagues and great mates! They are a group of people who spent a relatively short period of time together doing valuable work with children and young teens at camp. We were only teens ourselves: growing and learning every day starting with the wake-up trio of bells.
At Otterdale and other camps in our Camping Association, there is no shortage of activities, events and experiences that benefit campers. Kids learn to swim, sail, canoe, kayak and participate in dramatic arts, music and much more. We ask kids to unplug at camp and spend time in the outdoors to experience nature through play and deliberate programs. They learn to cooperate by living in a rustic environment with 8-10 kids in a cabin of their own age. They run and play (and trip and fall) in an environment that promotes good health, fitness and personal growth.
A single session at camp can be a “stand-alone” positive experience for kids and families. My hope is that all kids get a chance to enjoy recurring camp experiences over a period of many years to benefit from this stable and predictable annual event during the important years of change and growth. The Otterdale staff work hard to ensure that every camper is immediately included and that they feel accepted into our camp community. The added benefit of returning to camp each year is a free membership into a lifelong community and instills an important sense of belonging.