An Open Letter to the Decision Makers in the USA Government

A Testimonial by Anna

I believe that in a world which sometimes seems dominated by fear and terror that peace will not be achieved around a government table unless it can first be achieved by individuals growing in understanding and acceptance. - Anna

I write to you as a former camp counsellor, a girl guide and most importantly as a mother. Through my life 2 organisations have shaped me and helped me become the person I am today, the 2 are very closely linked together in ideology. Firstly the girl guides, an organisation that encouraged me to find out about 'my neighbour' to give my time to others and to work together to build communities.

Through my involvement with the Guides I was introduced to the second life changing organisation, the American Institute for Foreign Study, often referred to by its most successful programme :Camp America. In the summer of 1999 I travelled to the west coast to work at a Girl Scout camp. I was a shy, somewhat sheltered English Graduate, lacking in confidence but with a strong belief that children deserved the best. It was the summer that changed my life, I grew up, I grew in confidence I realised that my abilities when paired with others really could make a difference. I was introduced to women from all over the world, who on the surface seemed very different to me but who all had the same desire to bring out the best in the young people they worked worked. Over that summer I realised that our differences were to be celebrated and together we really could make a difference to our campers.

I made life long friends, the people who nearly 15 years later I still communicate with daily. When I got married one of my bridesmaids travelled 6000 miles to be by my side, when she suffered a still birth I was one of the first people she told, my heart broke for her. Each year as May turns to June my thoughts turn to Seattle and to camp, I reminisce on social media sites, I am encouraged to send a postcard half way round the world to let someone know I am thinking about them, I email specific staff members and remind them that they made a difference to me.

As a mother my greatest wish is that my children will have the opportunity to travel, to make life long friends and to work with people that they would never other wise encounter.

I believe that in a world which sometimes seems dominated by fear and terror that peace will not be achieved around a government table unless it can first be achieved by individuals growing in understanding and acceptance. I believe that the opportunities that summer camp gives young people (staff and campers) the chance to experience peace and acceptance enables them to be more tolerant and that can only be a good thing.

Please do not allow the small number of people and organisations who have abused the system to prevent my children and the thousands of other potential students and camp counsellors from experiencing the personal growth and global understanding that comes from word travel.

Anna