I recall very clearly, about 25 years ago, the call from my Camp Director, mentor and friend Bruce “Skip” Harris to come to camp for a Work Weekend. It was a new idea at the time for his camp (Camp Kawabi). There was a lot of interest within my generation of staff to help out and of course get together. Any excuse for a road trip and rendezvous was a great one back then and actually continues to be with many of that gang! I recall a lot of reconnecting and a surprisingly large amount of work being crossed off Skip’s well thought out list. The values of pitching in and helping out has always been strong within the camp community. Everything just seemed to come together for everyone that weekend.
When I was just getting my water wings wet here at Otterdale, I thought it a great idea to have a Work Weekend with the hopes of recreating that earlier experience. I was truly dumbfounded that I could only generate slightly less than moderate interest from only a handful of staff. We did manage to have a (mini) work weekend during a very cold and wet few days. We crossed off a few jobs and I remain thankful to that small group of staff who gave up their time to help out.
What I realized at some point not long after that weekend was we were doing was much more than fixing, building and cleaning. Through the work and chores (and trying to stay warm) that first group of staff was reinforcing their past summer’s connections and helping to create a community. Our camp community was just beginning to establish its own identity and unique culture. That small group of staff had a strong connection with each other and “this place”. They realized that their camp relationships were going to remain important in their lives and what they learned at camp would be very relevant to their future success and well-being.
The focus of our Work Weekends has shifted from “work” to developing “skills”. Naturally enough a Skill Development theme is more palatable than a Labour Camp theme to most. Participation in our Skills Weekend has grown to the point that we are expecting all but a handful of staff to be at camp this coming long weekend. There will be staff participating in a Canoe Instructor course and a NLS waterfront course. There will also be a support group that will have that little job list to try and knock off!
We have come a long way…….I don’t know of another camp staff that will be devoting their May long weekend to:
- Better prepare for teaching and counselling
- Systematically reducing the never ending camp chores list
- Helping new staff eliminate their butterflies
- Showcase their camp to visitors during the Sunday afternoon Open House
- Being outside and enjoying the natural camp environment
- Enjoy some crazy games
- Sing some camp songs
- Have a polar bear swim
- Help make a Dutch Oven meal
- Laugh through the morning news sketch
- And most importantly to continue to build and strengthen our camp community.
That’s what’s cool about the Skills Weekend!