I work at a children’s summer camp in New Hampshire as a maintenance person and don’t have much direct interaction with the campers other than a passing hello or so as I pass them on my way to a project, so when I heard that part of the responsibility here was to do projects in the morning then work at the day camp in the afternoons I was a bit apprehensive. I even e-mailed Caroline asking if I might be able to just continue on the work projects for the full day, skipping the camp portion but was told that camp was mandatory for all as well as important to everyone. After the plane flight and beautiful scenic five hour drive, we were all tired but excited for what lay ahead. Sunday morning we were given a tour of the area along with an orientation explaining some of the hardships of this reservation.
The first work day, after completing morning projects and having lunch, we greeted the bus load of kids prepared for day camp. As I watched them exit the bus I could see the typical excited kids as well as the shy ones, but also began to see something else I was not sure of. Some of the kids obviously displayed a tough, hard and somewhat protective shell, but what I really noticed was what I can only describe as a kind of glaze in their eyes. These would be the ones who would be hardest to communicate with but whom I wanted to reach out to, as well as the kids who were outwardly friendly. There was some progress that day and it was not AS hard as I had thought. Basketball and piggybacks work well with most, but listening and communication seemed to help connect a bit with the others. I felt as if on Monday, small breakthroughs were made.
Tuesday afternoon, after working on the Pow Wow area digging holes through the gumbo and hard packed soil, I quickly and anxiously put away my tools in anticipation of camp. As the kids filtered in, I found myself looking for a few select kids from my previous day and realizing that there were also others today that were not present on Monday. Again, connections were made with both previous AND new comers. I felt satisfied again that some progress was made.
Wednesday’s arrival was the highlight for me. I noticed that not only was I searching for my new friends, but also that they were looking to find me as well. Never before have I felt the way I did that day.
After another day of camp on Thursday, I lay awake that night reflecting on the past weeks’ small amount of progress, but mostly worried about what might lay ahead for these children in the future. I silently cried for a little while, hoping that more people would help to continue where I left off.
My life has been changed in a positive way from this experience and can only hope the same for these children.I know I will return someday and until then I will continue to think of, pray and hope for my friends. Ale-Cat, Aiden, Abby, Julian, Eduard and all of you...be well.