My camp story actually begins 3 years prior to my first summer in 2012, although I did not know it at the time,
It was September 2009 and I was about to start University at York St john's in England. I was 18 years old and excited for the next chapter in my life like anyone else would be; little did I know it would be the hardest time I have ever experienced this far.
The first couple of week were great; I adjusted to my new surroundings, made new friends and thew myself into University rugby. Yet despite that, things didn't feel right and I couldn't quite put my finger on the reason why. Then one day I woke up i the morning before my lecture and cried. It wasn't an angry cry or a cry of desperation. It was a realization cry; I was home sick.
At the time I had built a close knot life for myself back home; I was into the 3rd year of eventually a 9 year relationship and I have been involved in my local rugby club heavily. I didn't think I would be the type of person to get homesick, but here I was, breathing heavily, laid in bed. From that point forward life became intolerable. I began traveling to the from University every day, each day waking up became harder and harder. My car was broken into and I received many parking tickets. I was at the end of my tether and there didn't seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel.
After a period of time, I tried to get myself back on my feet and got a job working in a Nursery. It was this that convinced me I wanted to work with children. That following September I applied back to University and got my life back on track. 3 years later I graduated with 1st Class Honours in Sports, Exercise and Health Sciences; however I had done this whilst living at home.
You see, the experience of homesickness can be debilitating; I had it constantly lingering over my head, unable to get away from it. That is until one night, on January 1st 2012, when I glimpsed a flyer about summer camp on the kitchen tables on my friend's house on New Year's Day. Later that day, I applied to the program and paid off the fees in full. If I had paid my fees in one lump sum, there was no way I was wasting all that money. On top of this, I'm pretty competitive, especially with myself; what better way to get over my homesickness than working in a different country for 3 months?
And so, on June 1st 2012, after staying in a hostel in New York City, I arrived at Camp Jewell YMCA. And strangely, I never got homesick once. And I never have since. It was something I never thought about because I never had the chance to. The culture at camp is infectious; Respect, Honesty, Responsibility and Caring are so bought into at Camp Jewell that you see people behave in ways you would never think possible in the outside world. It opened my eyes to a place I wanted to be. I didn't want to go home. I wanted to experience Camp for as long as possible. Summer 2012 was a massive turning point for me. It allowed me to focus solely on myself. Couple that with the people here who are emotionally supportive, not because they have to be, but because they wanted to be, I became a better person. So much so I returned in the summer of 2013.
I love the person I am at camp, I will always visit Jewell to remind myself of the person I truly am and I will live by the character counts for the rest of my life. At the time of writing this I am currently working my third summer as the 2016 Clinic Co-ordinator after a 2 year break. I am a fully qualified Primary School teacher back home in England and I am thankful for my school allowing me to take time to experience working at Camp Jewell maybe one last time. I say maybe because I will never be able to say this is my final summer working. Camp has a lure of pulling you back in when you think you are done. It doesn't matter how old you are, how many years you will; Camp will always be there for you, waiting whenever you need it again.
I now look back on my life as an 18 year old University student not with sadness, but with happiness. Because if it wasn't for experiencing that part of my life, I would never have had a reason to apply to Camp, and it discover the wonders this place has to offer.
I am thankful for Camp.