International staff at summer camps are really and truly bringing us one step closer to world peace - and I believe this through and through! As an American now living in the United Kingdom, my perspective is unique. I went to camp as a camper for years and years and worked my way up to the Administrative team at camp and ultimately I worked for the organization that owns and operates "my" summer camp. Over this 15 years of service I saw literally 100's of International Staff come through my camp. Their impact was HUGE. Why did they have such strange accents? Did they live the same way as I did in their countries? Were their parents worried about them traveling so far from home?
The differences were apparent. But after spending a summer, many summers, getting to know New Zealanders, Russians, South Africans, Australians, Ukrainians, Turkish, Germans, Swiss, Danes, Norwegians, Swedes, French, Spanish, Czechs, Slovaks, the English, Scottish and Welsh - (very definitively defined I might add!), I learned...I learned that despite what the news says and what our history books tell us, these people, these great people were my friends. After the summers, when I was old enough, I traveled to some of their homes and their countries and they visited mine. We initially kept in touch with pen and paper letters and costly phone calls and in time, we connected through email, social networks and Skype! I learned about the wars in their countries, the history they were taught, their favorite local foods, their favorite music groups, sports teams and that they laughed, loved and lived for the same things I do. In fact, my post is incredibly timely as - no word of an exaggeration - this Saturday I am meeting up with some of these very same people, my friends who I went to camp with exactly 30 years ago!!! Some friends are even flying into London for this reunion. Their children are now camp counselors themselves. The spiral continues. So, like I said, cultural exchange is one step closer to world peace. Can you see that? It's because we're developing meaningful relationships with other human beings from other countries which creates understanding and tolerance and respect. I can't imagine our world without this fundamental opportunity for cultural exchange.