Camp: A Global Community of Support and Healing

On March 11, 2011, the Touhoku district of Japan was struck by a massive tsunami and earthquake, which left over 22,000 dead or missing. By the next day, the American Camp Association (ACA) and the international camp community had responded with e-mails of condolence and support to Tatsuya Kanayama, director of the National Camping Association of Japan (NCAJ).

And support and aid from the global camp community didn’t end there. Recently, members from NCAJ visited Camp El Tesoro de la Vida, a US grief camp, to evaluate and learn how the camp experience can help heal. With over 100,000 Japanese children and youth displaced by the tandem disasters, NCAJ is hoping the more relaxed atmosphere, combined with therapy, will prove as successful in Japan as it has throughout other parts of the world. NCAJ is hoping to begin sponsoring grief camps for children by March, the first anniversary of the disasters. (Read more about the NCAJ's visit in the organization's August 2011 newsletter.)

“The camp community is a learning community, and as such, is eager and willing to share knowledge with each other,” said Peg Smith, chief executive officer of ACA. “More importantly, the camp community is a global community and is very tied to each other. When something of this magnitude affects our peers in Japan, it directly affects the camp community here. There is a need to reach out and support each other, and help in any way possible.”

The International Camping Fellowship (ICF) — an organization that began in 1987 and serves to coordinate the exchange of news and information between individuals, camps, outdoors experiences, and organizations in different countries — has grown in both numbers and scope. With a membership of over 170 camps and camping organizations representing thirty countries worldwide, ICF knows first-hand how unique the camp community is and how far the global camp community extends — even here in the US.

Many people don’t know that camps operate on six continents. And, while camp is part of the fabric of the American culture, the camp experience extends far beyond US borders. Camp is a fundamental part of the global community, and camp is proving to be a vehicle for increased humanity among all ages and cultures.

"The importance of the cultural understanding that occurs in North American camps is profound,” said Linda Pulliam, ICF membership chair. “Each summer, the arrival of adult staff and children from around the world spontaneously transforms thousands of camps into global communities. The results can be life changing, and the memories will impact the children who will be our future leaders."

“As a global camp community, our humanity has no borders or boundaries,” said Smith. “Camp professionals are connected not only by their dedication to child and youth development but also by the spark, the spirit of the camp experience. Camp builds community and a sense of belonging — even across miles and oceans.”

For more information on the global camp community, or to use ACA’s Find a Camp database to find the perfect camp experience, visit In addition, families can follow ACA on Facebook and Twitter for helpful hints and camp information.

Contact Public Relations at 765.349.3317 or to interview an ACA spokesperson or for more information about camp as a natural extension of traditional education. For customizable public service announcements or article reprints, visit our Media Center at

About ACA
The American Camp Association® (ACA) works to preserve, promote, and enhance the camp experience for children and adults. ACA-Accredited® camp programs ensure that children are provided with a diversity of educational and developmentally challenging learning opportunities. There are over 2,400 ACA-accredited camps that meet up to 300 health and safety standards. For more information, visit