This Tuesday, I decided to write about safety at camp. Why? I believe many parents are on some level concerned about some aspect of camp.
For some, it’s the thought of their child being bullied or even worse, abused by an adult. We could classify these concerns as violence.
For others, it’s less threatening and about every day challenges. Some of the questions may be: will my child have fun? Will they stay warm? Will they want to come home? Will they make any friends? We might call these sorts of concerns comfort related.
For other parents, it’s about physical harm not caused by a person but by the environment and setting. Will my child break their leg at group games or while hiking? Will they get stung by a bee? I might label these concerns as environmental safety.
So what does Bethany Birches do to address these three categories of safety (don’t get me wrong, there are other areas of safety that we monitor! But for the sake of a reasonable length blog post, I’ll have to include those in a future post)?
Violence: we work very hard when hiring staff. We do multiple reference checks, a criminal background check including sex offender registries. We have a detailed interview. We ask lots of questions about faith, religion and world view. Finally, if we notice any behavior from a staff person that is concerning on this front, we let them go. As for bullying, we guard against this as best we can through maintaining adult supervision at nearly all times, requiring campers to travel around camp with a trusted buddy (like when going to the bathroom) and by disciplining those exhibiting bullying behavior and working closely with them to change their patterns of relating to others.
Comfort: this is a tough one! Some campers don’t want to admit their cold in front of their friends. Others don’t tell their counselor they wet their bed. And some times, campers just don’t know they’re uncomfortable! As a parent, you know that you often have to think for your child in ways they cannot yet think for themselves. This is what we teach our staff to do. We teach them to notice how their campers are feeling. Are they happy or sad? Are their shoes wet or dry? Do they have extra clothes to change into? Does their sleeping bag smell weird? One of our primary goals for counselors and all staff members is that they would be an excellent guide for each camper. By guide I simply mean that they would provide a meaningful experience, initiate fun and conversation, and take really good care of each child, including washing their sleeping bag after peed in without anyone noticing!
While life and the outdoors throw all sorts of curve balls like a mean spirited attack from another to a cold rainy day, we desire to always care deeply for each person entrusted to us. We take seriously complaints from parents and do our very best to get better at keeping kids safe, comfortable and happy so their mind, body and soul can grow while at camp.
Here’s to another exciting, meaningful safe season of summer camp at Bethany Birches!