Giving has always been a critical lesson that we teach campers and staff as part of the camp experience. Living and learning together, campers must give respect to their peers and camp staff. In creating a great camp experience, staff members must give freely of themselves and their time. Each and every person learns to give their best effort and strengths in each activity, opportunity, and interaction.
In today’s world, we must also teach our campers and staff to give globally. It’s important to instill recognition that there are other people with needs elsewhere. Sometimes when campers are at summer camp, it’s easy for them to believe they are at the only summer camp that could ever exist. But children and youth are growing up with the responsibility to be global citizens — to see the value in diversity, to have an idea how the rest of the world operates, and to participate in our world respectfully.
Teton Valley Ranch’s participation in a program called Camp Goes Global has been a great way to instill this idea in our campers and staff. Camp Goes Global (a part of Philip Lilienthal’s Global Camps Africa) is designed to help campers and staff in the States reach out to campers in South Africa.
Our participation in Camp Goes Global lasts just one day. We start the day with a presentation about Camp Sizanani — the camp in South Africa we will be connecting with. We discuss with our campers (at length) Sizanani, South Africa, and the campers there. Then we have a “Day of No Guzzles” (we call the treats at camp “Guzzles”). That’s when campers have the choice to opt out of their “Guzzle” for the day and donate whatever money would have been spent on the treat (usually between $1 and $1.50) toward a camp scholarship for a deserving South African child.
Our campers can choose to still have their treat and not participate in Camp Goes Global — we do not stand in their way or force the choice on them. But I’m proud to report that no one has ever chosen not to give.
Through this experience, Teton Valley Ranch campers come to view themselves as being a part of something bigger. It “clicks” for them that there are other camps beyond ours. More than any other day of camp, our “Day of No Guzzles” highlights the fact that we intend for our campers to be givers in the world — not takers.
This instance of choosing to give will serve them in the future, after high school or college, when the choice to contribute to something larger than themselves is one they must make independently.
Participating in Camp Goes Global has allowed us to combine the timeless tradition of giving at camp with the more recent recognition that we must contribute to the global community. Every camp professional desires to stay on the cutting edge of youth development and education, and I believe that instilling this character trait — global giving — will be something that serves our camps and campers for years to come.
For more information, visit www.globalcampsafrica.org/camp-goes-global.
Tom Holland is the executive director of the Teton Valley Ranch Camp Education Foundation in Jackson, Wyoming. He is a member of the American Camp Association National Board of Directors and lives in Wyoming with his wife, Catherine, and their three children.
Originally published in the 2013 March/April Camping Magazine.