It has been a WHIRLWIND these last 14+ days, so this blog may have been paused temporarily BUT I want to pick it up right where I left off so no one is missing out. I’m also breaking it into two parts but don’t be fooled because this blog is still a lengthy boi. I wanna get down to business first then the party comes after… Who am I kidding? Even the business is a bit of a party! Let’s get started!
Remember how I was working with refugee children at a place called Eglinton? Well the camp was three weeks long and this marked the end of the third week meaning Camp CABAM and Camp Craic are officially finished. Before I get into how bittersweet it was, I wanna let you know all the incredible things we were able to do. In the second and third week, our team continued the basic schedule we established week one, but don’t worry, it was far from boring. We introduced new games and crafts and even went to new places! Our team thought it might be beneficial to have a theme for the week so we chose “Under the Sea”. How could that ever be boring?!?! We found crafts that followed this theme, including paper plate fish, turtles, and jellyfish and played games fitting the theme as well. We even continued to sing the Jellyfish song that we began week one and sang Baby Shark (although they were both discontinued by week three along with the idea of themes).
The second week was characterized by learning how to reuse songs, crafts and games the kids showed the most interest in, not continuing activities the kids lost interest in, and introducing things we believe the kids would be excited about. We wanted new twists and to keep them on their toes while also leading activities that have proven to grab their attention. Additionally, after getting to know the kids a bit, we wanted to be more intentional and gear our camp towards what they enjoyed.
Some games we played within the two camps were Sharks and Minnows (Under the Sea theme!!!) and Extreme Tic-Tac-Toe (used with older kids so no need to fit theme). Being intentional and responsive to what the kids desired really paid off for us as we learned some important things about our group of kiddos. One thing we learned is that for the most part (with the exception of Four Corners), it is best to find games where the kids play an active role even when they get out. For example, in Sharks and Minnows, the kids who get tagged become seaweed and are able to tag other kids that run too close. We noticed that once they are out of a game that doesn’t have a role for them to play after, they begin to complain or get antsy and start running around which increased the level of difficulty in conducting the game.
We also learned about the kids on a much more individual level. We realized one kid is a true superstar! He can sing, dance, draw, and he has some great social skills considering every other kid wants to be his friend. I mean, he leads the group when they dance to Level Up or Wakanda Forever. We discovered that one girl is incredibly fast and a few counselors have encouraged her to start track at her school in the fall. This is a big part of what makes leading kids at summer camp so much fun. We give structure but allow for creativity in which we see kids shine in such unique ways. We see their strengths and even some areas they could improve on, and we encourage them while walking with them, so they may be able to utilize their gifts.
That was week two at Eglinton. Pretty tame right? It would be but please keep in mind our group is kinda tuckered out and our kids are KIDS. We had two songs that became an anthem for the group by the end of camp. One of them I felt was like a personal testimony. It goes like this: Peanut Butter Reese’s Cup/ Mess with me I’ll mess you up/ Bang bang choo choo train/ Come on (insert name of someone Ex:AJ), do your thing/ AJ: I can’t/ Kids: Why not?/ AJ: I just can’t/ Kids: WHY NOT?/ AJ: My back hurts, the sun’s too bright but I shake my booty from the left, to the right/ Everyone:to the left, to the right, to the left, right left, right (then repeats). That whole “I can’t”, “I just can’t” and the back hurting stuff was all us counselors by the end of the day. If you were to look in the room ten minutes after the kids leave the camp, you would probably find me lying down. The routine is as follows: camp ends, kids leave, broom the floor, lay on the ground, debrief the day (while laying on the ground). Anyhow, I think it is time I head on to week three.
The last week of camp was full of firsts for all of us. Towards the end of week two, as our group was walking from the park to Eglinton, a guy from a bar stared me down. Having a kid in each of my hands, I chose to ignore him but he proceeded to get up from his seat, leave his drink on the table and walk towards me. He legit jogged to catch up to me. When he made it to me, he asked if I was leading some sort of camp through Eglinton. After I told him about our camp, he stated that he was the owner of Supermac’s (a fast food restaurant) and invited all of our kids to eat there one day. We exchanged contacts and on our last Wednesday, we took all the kids to Supermac’s for burgers, chips (fries), and a drink. This was most assuredly a first for me. Through this and a few other smaller moments, I have had the privilege of seeing the generosity in the community around Galway. There are people who give and ask for nothing in return. Antony (Supermac’s owner) and his wife Sharon are two of these people.
In addition to our Supermac’s outing on Wednesday, our camps did lots of awesome things. We created homemade playdough and slime! That alone made us the coolest group out there (except for when some slime got stuck on the ceiling, please don’t ask how)! To top it off, we continued our week of junk food and had Fun Friday which involved both ice cream AND pizza! The whole ten yards!
After this three week journey with the kids, we are all really going to miss them. A lot of our younger ones didn’t understand that we weren’t coming back, and the ones who did, cried. In our older group we could tell that many of the kids were going to miss us and they each had their own ways to cope. Some cried, others talked it out, and a few found it easiest to leave right away. In such a short period of time, the kids have become a large part of our lives and we care for them deeply. We have seen them grow in the three short weeks that we have known them. When I think about it, each camp is only three hours long, five days a week. We have only spent 45 total hours with these kids and yet we have established authentic relationships. Creating these lasting bonds, being a present adult in their lives (even though it was temporary) and becoming a role model for them has been one of the greatest blessings in my life and I believe my colleagues placed at Eglinton would agree.