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As the Butterfly Flies
Selection of a butterfly as the logo for the 1987 International Camping Congress, hosted by the American Camp Association, was farsighted and fortuitous in many ways. Adoption of the butterfly logo by the International Camping Fellowship — founded during that conference — has represented countless exchanges of campers, staff, and information, as well as five subsequent International Congresses during the past eighteen years. The blue butterfly, circumscribed with a map of the world on its wings to represent the conference theme of "Our Fragile World," has become a metaphor for the development of greater understanding among the global camp community. In preparation for the flight of the butterfly to Mexico City for the Seventh International Congress, October 12-16, 2005, the Camping Magazine series, "Our Global Camp Community", has highlighted camps on five continents.
The Faces of Global Camping
As a retired camp director, I consider myself tremendously privileged to have had the opportunity to visit camps in Russia, Japan, Greece, Australia, Venezuela, Mexico, Canada, Cyprus, and Ukraine over the past fifteen years. I also treasure the friendships of campers and staff — represented by the flags of sixty countries hanging in the dining hall of my former camp — as well as those friends from International Camping Congresses and ACA National Conferences. Guests at my own wedding represented eight different countries! But conveying to other Americans the significance of these trips and relationships is often met with a glazed expression. Through this series of articles, I have attempted to put faces on the people who are impacting organized camping around the world.
In Colombia, we met Juan Mario who has repeatedly moved his Camp Kajuyalí to escape the threats of guerrilla warfare, drug traffickers, and the eruption of a volcano. Russian directors — Svetlana, Larisa, and Anton — continue to deal with the economic and political transition that impacts their ability to recruit campers and secure supplies. We visited an important gathering in Mongolia, where Asians united to share knowledge and develop plans for the future. Sako, Yuko, Mohamed, Anthony, and Tulshig helped us to understand the challenges of camping in their countries. Mohamed from Malaysia has kept us informed about the terrible impact of the December 2004, tsunami on the people of Indonesia and Sri Lanka. In Europe, we discovered the special atmosphere of a camp for children with chronic illnesses based in a castle in Ireland, danced traditional dances with Fifi and Alexia at Camp Delphi in Greece, and met Radu and Lavinia who are developing a camp based on an American model on a lake in Romania, near Dracula's stronghold. Australians — Jenny, Trevor, Bill, and Don — enlightened and entertained us with images of kangaroos, wallabies, and glow worms, possum prowls, and bush cooking.
Finally, Genaro and Peter have welcomed us to visit them and their camps in Mexico where the fledgling camp industry is hosting a world-wide gathering — the Seventh International Camping Congress.
As we have met directors from around the world, several issues and challenges have resounded from nearly all and, not surprisingly, echo those of North American camps:
The camp traditions of some countries reflect the U.S. and Canadian models of the mid-1900's or the long-established Boy Scout and Girl Scout camps, but most of these programs are now recognizing the value of establishing an identity unique to their countries. Japanese camping, deeply rooted in Canadian tradition, is an example of a country where activities that more accurately reflect Japanese society today are now an integral part of camp programs. Camps in other countries are complementing American activities with indigenous crafts, historical dramas, music, and dance. In some areas of the world, camp is a developing institution, and directors seek help and support from North American camp professionals. They have recognized the needs for better risk management and increased educational opportunities for camp administrators.
Camps in most countries outside the U.S. have shown a strong interest in affiliating with the camp movement. Well-established camp associations with professional staff operate in Russia, Japan, Australia, and Canada. In Mexico, Venezuela, Hong Kong, Mongolia, Ukraine, Greece, Malaysia, and Georgia, volunteer associations advocate with government entities and provide educational programs. Varying levels of programs for best practices, either voluntary or government mandated, exist in these countries. In Asia and Europe, "associations of associations" are being formed to further communication among camps on those continents. At the upcoming International Congress, presidents and executive staff of existing associations will meet for the first time to share ideas and discuss collaborative efforts.
Global Resource Partners
The term, global resource partners, was coined and advocated by Peg Smith, CEO of the American Camp Association, to represent ACA's commitment to sharing with other countries. ACA possesses the largest collection of camping and youth development publications in the world, and efforts are being explored to offer these resources at reasonable prices to professionals in other countries. International participation at national ACA conferences has increased significantly during the past decade, and there have been many recent requests for sharing of ACA's other educational programs.
But sharing goes both ways — and there is much to be learned from the accomplishments of camps and organizations around the world. Americans are often viewed in the global camp community as being somewhat self-important and patronizing in their attitudes toward camps outside the U.S. borders. As an organization, we are beginning to recognize that significant research in youth development and outdoor programming has been done in Russia, Japan, and Australia, and the Research Forum has become an important function of the International Congresses. We have much to learn from the Australian approach to year-round camping and the designs that could be applied in American camps, as well as the prevalence of fully-accessible sites throughout the country. As we become better acquainted with the world-wide institution of camp, we will have opportunities to learn from our colleagues as well as to share our knowledge and resources.
The Butterfly Unites Us in Mexico
One of the greatest values of identifying with a movement larger than the boundaries of our own camps and organization lies in opportunities for exchange of ideas and establishment of relationships. Fifteen-year-old James Simpson, an Australian camper, composed the theme song for the Sixth International Camping Congress, "As the Butterfly Flies," and expressed in the chorus, "Let's celebrate how we differ; let's celebrate what we share. Let's show the world together that together we can care." That opportunity waits at the Seventh International Camping Congress, October 12-16, 2005. You are invited to join your colleagues in Mexico City to experience the magic of that blue butterfly uniting us in a world of outdoor experiences.
Linda Grier Pulliam is executive of the American Camp Association, Virginias, and was a camp director for twenty-seven years. She holds an M.S. Degree in Education, has served on the Steering Committee of the International Camping Fellowship for the past ten years, and is the International Coordinator for ACA. For information on the International Camping Congress, Pulliam may be contacted at acavirginias@ACAcamps.org or see the Web site, www.iccmexico2005.com.
Originally published in the 2005 September/October issue of Camping Magazine.