Name: Amanda Santiago
Class Year: 2019
Internship Placement: Camp Voyager YMCA Summer Camp
Location: Dover, Del.
Over the past six weeks I have been a camp counselor at Camp Voyager, one of my local YMCA summer camps, in Dover, Del. The YMCA summer camps are a great place for children to spend their summers because they can participate in the following activities:
- Swimming lessons twice a week
- Daily swim time
- A daily lunch and snack
- Science and nature classes, arts and crafts, and archery lessons
- Performing arts classes
- Weekly trips
- An opportunity to socialize and interact with children in their age groups
I have to admit, it has not been easy; it has taken a lot of adjusting to a brand-new environment. I have worked in school settings before, but never with 150 kids at once. Just as when I arrived at Bryn Mawr, when I arrived to my first day of camp, I was surrounded with a bunch of people from different places with whom I would be working with on a daily basis.
At the beginning, I found it very hard to find a way to fit myself into the children’s lives in order to both implement camp rules and curriculum and make my own observations for my research. A lot of the children at camp come from “unconventional” families, and they have many trust issues with authority figures, and they saw me as another person who wanted them to follow the rules. In the long run, I had to wait for the kids to open up to me. This allowed me to see the importance that camp has for these children. I thought of it as a place parents could leave their kids for the day while they went to work; however, for a good number of the children at camp, it was much more than that: they saw camp as a place where they were safe during the day, a place where they could be children, and not have to worry about issues at home, as well as a place where they didn’t have to think about their next meal.
At camp, all campers are given a free lunch and snack in the afternoon provided by the state of Delaware. They are allowed to take any leftovers home with them. After a couple of conversations with some of the children at camp, I learned that lunch at camp was the only meal they would have until dinner because their parents didn’t have time to prepare breakfast for them or didn’t have the items to make them something. These conversations broke my heart because as a child I was always very blessed to have every meal every day, but for these children, food wasn’t a daily privilege.
This has impassioned me even more to want to purse a career as a social worker. A lot of the campers need help in small ways: they need someone to listen to them and talk to them, and they need help with bigger issues, like needing someone to fight for them, so that their basic needs are met every day. The YMCA is a nonprofit organization that could use a lot more help than what they are given now. Camps could use a breakfast program and a copious amount of materials to better provide for other children. Please consider looking up your local YMCA and finding a way that you can help make a difference in a child’s life.