‘I see trees of green, red roses too
I see them bloom for me and you
And I think to myself what a wonderful world’
(click here to listen to the song)
Stop that song on the radio.
Don’t turn over that photo.
All of the things I do to avoid reminiscing about camp. I won’t be able to feel then. I won’t feel the sadness of being away from everyone. I won’t miss the love and affection you get from so many people, everyday. I won’t miss the fresh air, that beautiful surrounding. I take a look around where I am at the moment, everything feels so cold. The people standing next to me, look lost. Lost in their uncertainty and their doubt. Politics, religion, ethnicity and gender create more walls between you and I. It's easy to think this is how life must be. Now and again, I stop myself and remember that place that appreciates and accepts us all.
When I feel ready, I open that photo, I listen to our summer song. I open the letter I wrote to myself. I let myself think, I let myself feel, I let myself be reminded of the incredible 10 weeks I had. I feel the wave of different emotions hit me and the tears begin again.
This may all sound bizarre especially if you have never been here before. Have you ever loved a place so much that you cry when you arrive and cry (like a whale) when you leave? I never had until I came here. I will try my best to explain the magic at Camp Hawkeye. Come and see it for yourself. It will make you challenge what everyone else tells you. It will make you see the real life behind who we are as people. That everyone can live, learn and love together. There is no 'perfect human being'. When I am at camp, there is no place I'd rather be (click here to listen to the song)!
I still remember every summer at Camp Hawkeye. It is a weird moment, when you have random people shout out your name 1000 times in a week. Or have your peers tell you they love you, pretty much all the time. It's strange how we usually find those words difficult to say but at camp, everyone says it with such ease and care, including myself.
Each time I am here, I notice different types of people. People of all ages. People of different ethnicities, and cultures. People from so many different countries. Yet, the more time you spend here, the more you clearly see how each individual is special in their own way. Each individual wants to be better for themselves and for the community. Each person has their own belief, their own hopes and their own dreams.
Together we can, together we will. It is true, at Hawkeye anything is possible.
Staff, Camper, CiT, or JC, everyone’s here for each other. Everyone has your back. Everyone genuinely wants to be together.
What an overwhelming feeling it is; to loved and cared for by people you have known for a day, a week or a month. No one may know your story back home, or where you come from. But that doesn’t matter. They believe in you. Yes you! They will see someone in you, you probably can't even see it yourself. When you become a part of our community, you’ll find that person in you, the real you, the one that everyone saw all along.
I know that's true because that happened to me.
Each year you are greeted by a handmade necklace. Time, care and effort is put in each one. Simple but meaningful. A fellow community member stands, proud to tie you with your very own one. Listen to our director speak as he welcomes you here. You'll hear the crowd erupt with a cheer. All of us celebrate and are thankful. Our community gets stronger, gets bigger, becomes even better with you being here.
Each day, you are met by familiar people. Some people started the journey with you, some before or some after you. People always join along the way, but no one gets left behind. It is strange that people, no matter if you have been here for a day or 5 years, will be happy to see you. Did you not see the crazy staff members greet you along the Driveway?
Songs, chants will bellow across our dining hall. Watch the different children and staff get up, trying out our dance move of the day. After all that dancing and singing, your hungry belly will be put to rest. Our beloved Chef puts their heart and soul into the food served at your table. Any allergy or dietary requirement will be met, that is one of the promises our Director has kept.
Watch out for that random water-fight, each cabin loves finding their individual way to make their mark. See the smiles across the field as everyone gets covered in water whilst making that catch. There are also basketballs, tennis balls, footballs, to be honest we have them all. The best are our Eggy Games, be sure not to fall!
The variety our camp has, I assure you can’t ever get bored. There is always something for everyone. Have a go at picking up a saw or take a dip in the lake. Our staff and our amazing nurse are here to keep you safe! Challenge yourself to run, swim, walk that extra mile. Our friends will be there, with you, in their own sort of style. (Click here to listen to everyone's favourite camp song)
When it gets cold, there are always blankets to share. Once the campfire is lit, they’ll give you the perfect flare. We have enough stumps for everyone. Sit with someone you know or someone you don’t. It doesn’t matter anyway because we use this space together. We celebrate, we perform and we learn.
You’ll make friends, some are close, some live far away. Distance won’t break the ties that our camp makes. I never knew, the people I met in 2012, would still be here, by my side. At the same home where we all started but now we are filled with everlasting pride.
Everyone has their struggles. Everyone has been hurt in some way. But this place, is a special place you will have never known before. You’ll feel safe, cared for. You may want to talk, or you may listen to the stories around you. No matter where you come from, no matter how you were, no matter of where you are going. Know that now, you will never be in this alone.
Changes happen over the year, but there is one place that will always remain the way you remembered. It may look different on the outside, there may be more activities and games. There may be new counsellors or campers in each cabin. But when you play that familiar game, or hear our much-loved camp song, it will all come rushing back. That feeling of safeness, freshness, comfort and belonging, is still all here. In that place, we call home.
Now I don’t know about you, but I haven’t found another place that believes and accepts people as much as this place here. See yourself flourish, see yourself believe you can. People are seen as people. Colours are just colours. No one sees you for what you look like on the outside, they’ll see the warmth you hold so clearly on the inside.
It is emotional for me to think about the people I’ve met here, how proud I am of who they have become. The confidence, the perseverance they’ve learned to grow. Their openness to the surrounding and to the people around them. There are some campers, who always miss their family at the start. But their tears are shared as they depart.
As time passes by, another year spent at Hawkeye. See the campers get a year older, see some become counsellors. These journeys are a privilege I am grateful to be part of. Years ago, there was a camper from France, scared to speak English. Years later, I arrive, she runs, speaking all the English, that I could have ever known. Each individual has their own journey, whether it is making that extra catch or earning a bead for their contribution to the community. Here, it is normal to see everyone inspired by each other’s own spark.
When I hear that song, or look at that photo, I realise I don’t feel sad, I feel blessed. I know of a place where children call home. I know of a place where children will succeed. I know of a place that does not judge you for what you are on the outside or where you come from. I know a place that will always welcome you and wait for your return. I know of a magical place, creating a true wonderful world.
Click here to listen to one more of my favourite songs that reminds me of camp.