November 28, 2013

Letter from a Camp Arowhon staff

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There’s something special about Arowhon that’s really hard to put into words until you experience it. The summer I chose to come to Arowhon I had a few different job options to consider, but I picked Arowhon. I had an incredible summer, and each one following has been even better. Clearly, I love the place, and I can’t sing it’s praises enough. I’ve learned more there, and grown more than I ever thought possible at a summer job.

Most of the staff are former campers. They’ve grown up here as campers and gone through the LIT program and are now staff. However, there’s always lots of brand new staff every year. Especially with instructors, there will definitely be a big group of new staff. There also tend to be a handful of new staff from the UK each year, which is cool. Everyone is super friendly and although it’s overwhelming at first, you feel welcome and comfortable really quickly. I started as a new staff in 2010, and I didn’t know anybody going in. I was super overwhelmed and nervous when I arrived…but that faded in what felt like a few minutes. I’m planning to be back again this summer, and I absolutely love it. I wouldn’t worry about it being awkward—people at Arowhon are amazing. I mean there’s definitely pre-established friendships of kids who have grown up together, but everyone is incredibly open and friendly and loves to get to know new people. As an instructor I can almost guarantee you’ll feel welcome and start making friends right away. Camp people are outgoing and friendly and inclusive.

As far as what sets Arowhon apart, I think one of the biggest things is our focus on learning through fun. Every activity is designed so that kids actually learn the skills of the activity, and progressively become better and better. There’s an award system designed so that dedicated kids who work hard and practice skills earn “high class awards”, which are incredibly difficult to achieve, and a huge deal at camp (it’s pretty amazing to watch a 12 year old windsurf, and know that they are better at it than I could ever dream of being–and they learned that 100% because of camp). I worked at another camp for four summers, and went there every summer as a kid, and we definitely didn’t do that–I also haven’t heard that from any friends who work at other camps. The other really awesome thing is the focus on emotional safety and emotions–the camp is very serious about inclusivity and anti bullying. We’re trained really well on these things at the start of the summer, and carry it out throughout the summer. The kids learn to respect each other and care for one another through things like nightly cabin circles, where every camper gets a chance to say the high of their day and their low and share with everyone. They also participate in “boys circles” and “girls circles” where they have open sharing time about particularly challenging issues for their specific age and gender (body image, peer pressure, etc). We’ve got really dedicated and caring staff who actively work to problem solve issues and get to the root of things, rather than just yell at kids and punish them.

The food is great. Joanne Kates, one of the directors, was a food critic for the Globe and Mail, and she holds the chefs to a pretty high standard. They hire two private chefs, who then hire a team of kitchen staff. As far as camp meals go, I’d say the food is excellent. There’s lots of classic stuff you’d expect, grilled cheese, chicken burgers, spaghetti, etc…but every day at lunch there are two homemade soups (which are always amazing) and a really well stocked salad bar. There’s a vegetarian option at every meal too. There’s always a snack for staff served at 11pm too, which is usually something like poutine or pizza bagels or mozzarella sticks. About once a week they have a special staff snack, where they’ll order in sushi, Thai food or specialty sandwiches.
I realize this email sounds like it’s the most perfect place in the world and like I’m trying to sell it you, but that’s all just my honest opinion. There are days when you’re tired, days when kids won’t get in the lake for you, days when your lesson doesn’t go to plan at all, but it’s an incredible experience, and I wouldn’t trade my time there for anything.

John McCracken



What keeps staff coming back to Arowhon?

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