Our young people need loving and supportive families if they are to grow and develop to the full. Yes, of course they do. But they also need to have experiences that are new and different from time to time – discovering new things to do, meeting new people, seeing new places, gaining new knowledge or skills. One way of making sure a regular supply of such experiences comes their way is to let them take part in well-run residential summer camps.
What is a summer camp?
A summer camp brings together 40 or 50 young people from different schools and different parts of the country for a week or so during the school holidays. At the summer camp, they get to know a host of new friends their own age that they would otherwise be unlikely to meet. They live together in a country mansion, a castle, or a residential centre. During the holiday they spend time in green fields, playing games of all kinds, exploring and telling stories round the fire at night. They take part together in a host of new and exciting activities, from canoeing or caving to making a kite or putting on a play. Children stand to benefit from such experiences in many ways. They increase their self-confidence and social skills and discover new activities they enjoy or are good at and just as importantly, they will have had a ball, a great laugh, and a holiday they will never forget.
Young people in a summer camp are usually divided into groups of eight or ten and are looked after by a volunteer or leader aged 18 to 25. The presence of young and enthusiastic leaders helps make the activities and the various aspects of daily routine go well. They provide older brother / sister type friendship and guidance as well as being great role models. This system also means there is always someone responsible with the children making sure they are kept out of danger – the safety record of residential summer camps is excellent. In addition to the young leaders, each summer camp will have an experienced person in overall charge, a full catering and domestic staff, and often a trained nurse matron to see to bumps or bruises.
In the USA and France summer camps are a part of most young people’s childhood. They are regarded as important, educationally, socially and developmentally, in the national provision for children and teenagers. In Britain fewer young people get the opportunity to go regularly to summer camps, but those that do benefit in all sorts of ways. They also get to experience some “real childhood”, in a setting with no TVs or computer games, where what matters is to chat and do things together, and to experience a creative, happy and positive community surrounded by fields, woods and hills. There are a number of excellent providers in Britain, some commercial companies and some not for profit Trusts. All of them see their young customers enjoying themselves and benefiting from uniquely happy weeks.
The Campaign for Summer Camps
If we could develop a large national system of well-run residential summer camps it would make a real difference to British young people as they grow up. It would make for a more enthusiastic and positive attitude to school and to life in general. The Campaign for Summer Camps hopes to increase the number of young people who enjoy and gain from such experiences, and believes that our society will benefit enormously if that can be achieved.
Want to know more?
Please visit www.campaignforsummercamps.org.uk to find links to some excellent British summer camp providers and their programmes for the school holidays of 2017. Parents who decide to check these out, and decide to send their son or daughter to a summer camp will be delighted they did – and their children will experience a uniquely happy and positive week they will never forget.
Christopher Green, MBE, Co-ordinator the Campaign for Summer Camps.