In Living Colors: Couleurs de Vie

by Linda Grier Pullium

In 1987, over 1,800 camp professionals gathered in Washington, D.C., for the Second International Camping Congress under the sponsorship of the American Camp Association. That conference was historic in many ways, including the formation of the International Camping Fellowship (ICF). The blue butterfly logo, circumscribed with a map of the world on its wings to represent the conference theme of "Our Fragile World" and adopted as the ICF logo, has become a metaphor for the development of greater understanding among the global camping community. More than twenty years later, countless international exchanges can be attributed to that memorable conference. Subsequent International Congresses were held in Canada, Russia, Japan, Australia, and Mexico, and the camp community is now anticipating the Eighth International Camping Congress, October 4-7, 2008, in Québec City, Canada.

Camp — A Global Perspective

The institution that we know as camp in North America has other names in some countries — children's rest, outdoor education, school camp, vacation plans, and holiday schemes, among others. Regardless, the essentials of a youth development program in a safe, nurturing environment and under the guidance of trained adults, remain consistent. The camp traditions of Couleurs de vie some countries reflect the North American camp models of the mid-1900's or the longestablished Boy Scout and Girl Scout camps, but most of these programs are now evolving into identities unique to each country. Japan, where camp programs have been deeply rooted in the Canadian tradition, is an example of a country that has instituted Japanese culture as an integral part of most camp programs. Camps in other countries complement American-style activities with indigenous crafts, historical dramas, music, and dance. In some areas of the world, camp is still an emerging industry, and directors seek help and support from North American camp professionals. With recognition of the need for stronger risk management and increased educational opportunities for camp administrators, ACA has received requests for assistance in developing appropriate local camp standards.

Camps in many countries have shown a strong interest in affiliating with the camp movement. Fourteen countries now have recognized camp associations which offer educational opportunities for directors and staff, communicate the values of camp to the public, oversee governmental legislation, and advocate for best practices. The International Camping Fellowship has supported the leadership in many of these countries in the formation of associations, and in the past four years has helped with the establishment of the Asia-Oceania Camping Fellowship and the European Camping Association. At the 2008 International Camping Congress, presidents and executive staff of existing associations will meet to share ideas and discuss collaborative efforts.

Shared Challenges in the Global Camp Community

As camp leaders from around the world communicate and share ideas, similar issues and challenges have resounded and echo those of North American camps:

• Financial constraints • Increased governmental regulations • Need for public awareness of the benefits of camp • Competition with other activities in recruiting campers • Increased cost of insurance • Finding and keeping qualified staff

Global Resource Partners

The American Camp Association possesses the largest collection of camp and youth development publications in the world, and efforts are being extended to provide these resources at reasonable cost 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 sometimes perceived in the global camp community as being patronizing in their attitudes toward camps outside the U.S. borders. As an organization, we are recognizing 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. As we become better acquainted with the worldwide institution of camp, we will have opportunities to learn from our colleagues as well as to share our knowledge and resources.

The Eighth International Camping Congress

The metaphorical blue butterfly, representing significant international events of the camp community, will land in Québec City, Canada, October 4-7, 2008 for the Eighth International Camping Congress. Sponsored by the Association des camps du Québec with the support of the Ministre de l'Éducation du Loisir et du Sport, seven hundred delegates from up to twenty countries are expected to participate. The American Camp Association, the International Camping Fellowship, and the Canadian Camping Association are partnering with the Congress organization to support this worldwide event. The theme, "In Living Colors," embodies both the beauty of the Canadian autumn colors and the diversity of camps, missions, and programs of participants. All events will be held in the spectacular Centre des Congrès de Québec, recognized as one of the best convention centers in the world.

The opening afternoon will feature a unique event of teamwork, competition, and cooperation — In Living Colors. This three-hour game will require the intellectual, physical, and artistic abilities of English and French-speaking participants. During the body of the Congress, over ninety sessions will be presented with 60 percent in English, 30 percent in French, and 10 percent in other languages. These sessions are divided into eight streams – International; Business; Leadership and Training; Site and Facility Management; Programming; Environment; Clientele; and Security, Health and Safety. Simultaneous translation will be used for keynote sessions, and generous portions of entertainment, interactive programs, and opportunities for exchange of ideas will highlight the Congress. The World Leisure Conference will overlap the final two days of the Congress, and a keynote and evening event will be shared on Thursday. On Sunday, October 5, ICC will host an exhibit hall of up to seventy exhibitors. During the Congress, most of the lunches and dinners are included in the registration fee and will highlight special entertainment such as the international dance troupe Danse Mackinaw. An international campfire and a gala closing banquet will conclude the program.

Prior to the Congress, tours of Canadian camps and kindred group conferences will be offered, and a five-day International Basic Camp Director course will be instructed by the U.S. team of Armand Ball, Dick Chamberlain, and Connie Coutellier. A special Teambuilding and Leadership course will be led by Jim Cain, author of Raccoon Circles. Full information about the program, hotels, and registration is found at www.iccquebec2008. com/en/. Early-bird rates are extended through April 15.

The opportunity for a unique cultural and educational experience lies just beyond our northern border and within a day's drive for many Americans. The hands of friendship are extended to welcome each participant to exchange ideas, learn about the international community, and celebrate the 400th anniversary of Québec City. We guarantee that your life will never be the same after this experience. Welcome to "In Living Colors — Couleurs de vie "!

Facts About Camps Around the World

  • Russia has more camps than any other country, with 55,000 day and resident camps.
  • Japan serves 30 million campers each year. The National Camping Association of Japan has 25,000 members.
  • Mongolia has camp standards enacted as law in 2005 and based on the ACA standards.
  • Australian camps operate mainly during the school year and work closely with the State Departments of Education.
  • Fourteen countries have organized camp associations.
  • Europe and Asia-Oceania have established regional camp associations.
  • There are 170 organized camps in Mexico, most of which were established in the past twenty years and modeled on U.S. and Canadian camps.
  • The Canadian Camping Association is comprised of eight provincial camp associations and includes over 800 camps.

Top 8 Reasons to Participate in ICC Québec 2008

  1. Québec City’s historic charm. Celebrate Québec City’s 400th anniversary, the only walled city in Canada, French Canadian culture, and … maple syrup!
  2. Keynote speakers and workshop facilitators. Bring your team — gain a better understanding of the challenges our camps face on a world scale and the difference we can make through organized camp. Understand who we are, who our partners are, what our shared issues are, and the impact of our actions.
  3. Networking. Meet camp professionals from around the world. Over 700 delegates from up to 20 countries are expected to attend. Enjoy an international campfire! Have the opportunity to wear your country’s traditional costumes.
  4. A chance to visit Canadian camps from coast to coast. Meet their directors/owners. Start in Vancouver or join in anywhere in the country.
  5. Exhibit hall with over 70 suppliers.
  6. Accommodations are all within walking distance of the Convention Centre.
  7. Free time to take advantage of Old Québec City, which will be bathed in its breathtaking fall colors. Enjoy the restaurants, the nightlife, the museums, and historic sites.
  8. Come to have a great time!

Linda Grier Pulliam is executive of the American Camp Association (ACA), 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. She may be contacted at For more information about the International Camping Fellowship, visit

Originally published in the 2008 May/June issue of Camping Magazine.