Sunday, June 26, 2011

it's a jungle out there

as i mentioned before, i spent the last week volunteering for my church as a leader at their annual girl's camp. it was held at camp lehi in the redwoods about an hour from my  house. the camp is put on each summer for girls ages 12-18 in our stake. i was unofficially asked to go last year and i kind of chuckled at the idea. why in the world would i give up a week of my summer and find someone to watch leah while i spent a week in the woods with teenagers? but this year, for some reason, when i received the phone call to officially invite me to be a unit leader over ten 14 year olds, it just felt right. i knew it was something i needed to do. 

since ryan is leaving work to go to school, he said he could use some vacation days and take the week off to watch leah. about two weeks before i left, ryan got slammed at work. and when i say slammed i mean he went into work early every day and stayed until the middle of the night. due to various circumstances, the work load in the office overall was increased and the staff was decreased by a few, so there was no way he could stay home. i nearly lost it. i'm not sure how anyone is expected to find someone to watch their child for five full days on such short notice {and not a lot of pay}. but, somehow i always forget how incredible my friends are and six of them immediately stepped in to watch leah that week.

i went to girl's camp as a youth - six years of it, actually. we did different things each year ranging from camping in tents and cooking over fires to rafting the green river or water skiing at nearby reservoir. i think we had electricity one year and flushing toilets another, but other than that, it was lots of flashlights, campfires and outhouses. camp lehi, however, is much different. the girls still "rough" it in tents, and we were in the wilderness all week {mosquitoes, heat, ticks, scorpions, rats, snakes, etc.}, but there were flushing toilets and a mess hall to eat in. which also means there was a larger staff. as a girl, my local young women leaders did everything from plan the camp to carry out the logistics themselves. quite a feat, now that i look back on it.

throughout the week, i counted 53 adults staffed in various areas who were there the entire week, among 15 or so others who came and went. these adults - ranging from cooks to nurses to directors to crafties to duties to certification leaders to unit leaders like me were all there solely to help the camp go smoothly for 88 teenage campers. it was incredible to watch and be a part of. 

as a third year leader, i was paired with another adult to take responsibility for the well being of ten 14 year old girls. alexa and i titled our unit the faithful felines and got to wear cat ears {handmade by moi} all week long. we ate with the girls, we hiked with the girls, we slept in their campsite. we were with them probably 22 hours of each day. and these girls were magnificent. 
we had a lively group, for sure. awards were given each night for various things throughout the day. our unit received no awards for cleanliness in the mess hall or anything of the sort.
 we did, however, receive multiple awards for being the most enthusiastic. and when i say enthusiastic, i wish you could just have a video of us singing {in competition with other groups} to get our meals or practicing for our skit. these girls were a riot.
i learned all sorts of things that are now a part of my daily life, much to ryan's chagrin. i now know the meaning of "i.l.l.y" - "i like love you!" as well as the symbol for the justin bieber heart. i know lyrics to songs i never knew existed and have been singing camp tunes like the princess pat ever since i've been home. 

the theme this year was "it's a jungle out there" and nearly everything we did was intended to strengthen these girls to be able to survive in a world that has very different standards than they do. 

throughout the week we participated in morning and night flag ceremonies, crafts, singing time, service projects {tying quilts, writing our testimonies in copies of The Book of Mormon, writing kind notes to others in our lives}, personal progress, "duties" {setting up or cleaning up after meals/cleaning the bathrooms/walking and cleaning the trails/etc.} and "EFC" - Especially for Campers - which, from what i understand, was one of the coolest parts of camp. unit leaders were not allowed to attend, but for an hour each day these girls were taught by two wonderful ladies about putting on the armor of god.
along with the other group of third years, we we went on an overnight hike on tuesday with packs on our backs to fulfill one of the certification requirements for their third year of camping.
 while on the hike led by sister atkinson, we got lost and ended up tromping through a forest of poison oak, which, miraculously, didn't harm anyone. while lost, we stopped by a river to purify drinking water {it was the hottest day at camp, nearing the 100s} and rest in the shade. when the two trusty men assigned to our group ({brother crist and brother keller} and two of the unit leaders returned saying they found our trail, we packed up and moved forward.
one girl began to have knee pain, so one of the men took her pack. another girl in my unit {and also one of the girls i've had the pleasure of teaching for the past two years} has had some health problems this year. i was called to be her unit leader and had specific instructions to make sure she was eating enough and not exerting too much energy. she had a dr. appointment set up for the next day and if her heart was under stress, she wouldn't have been able to come back. she was doing great, but as we stopped to take a rest, she looked a bit tired. so, i picked up her backpack and put it on my left shoulder and started hiking. she protested, but i insisted. i told her i knew she wasn't asking for help, but i wanted to make sure she came back to camp after her appointment. she gave in and we hiked together the rest of the way. i had a lot of people ask me how i carried two packs full of gear for the rest of the hike and to be honest, i don't know. i really wasn't even tired after doing it. my only conclusion is that i definitely had some extra help from above. this darling girl ended up passing her medical exam with flying colors and came right back to camp. 
thursday night the third years were in charge of a skit. after bonding on the overnight hike, the two units decided to do their skit together and they performed "girl's camp the musical: year three" for all the other campers. they chose popular songs from justin bieber, katie perry and more and redid the lyrics to coordinate with things happening at camp. the girls did everything themselves from start to finish, including cue cards i held for them in front of the stage. it was a bit of a drama to get to the finished product {remember, this group consisted of twenty 14 year olds}, but the result was hilarious and quite impressive.
friday we participated in an all-camp activity. the girls were divided into ten teams to compete in a game of survivor for ice cream sundaes. madeline and i were relieved of our unit leader duties for a few hours and were instead in charge of the "teamwork" competition where two teams competed against each other to be the first to make it across the "river" while standing only on two boards and two stones. also hilarious to watch. some teams got really into it and most were really creative - including picking up the smallest members and carrying them across on their backs. we were, again, impressed.
friday night after dinner and campfire, we held a testimony meeting where girls shared their testimonies of the gospel of jesus christ and how those testimonies were strengthened while at camp. i loved hearing such sweet words come from the mouths of the girls in my unit as well as the girls i've had the pleasure of teaching each sunday for the past three years. 
saturday we packed our bags {when they were lined up on the pavement, the square footage of bags took up more space in a moving truck than ryan and i will use to move our entire house in a few weeks nice.},
 tore down our tents {the first years found a fun surprise under their tents as they were dismantling. two rats had gone in to make a nest before the girls got there and were trampled to their deaths as the girls set up. these 12 year olds thought the foul smell was dirty feet or simply that of camping when in reality it was two dead, smooshed rats they had been sleeping on all week!},

and did our final duties before we headed back home. 

as the week ended, i realized that this week really was something i was supposed to do. it was a joy to be with these girls for six days where we weren't distracted by technology or media or anything else. we could learn and be strengthened and uplifted by one another with no strings attached. i met some wonderful individuals in our stake, which ironically now makes me even more sad to be moving, but i'm glad to have met them and have their influence forever upon me. it is a jungle out there, but with people like this looking out for me and for all these girls, we can definitely make it through.

1 comment:

Rob and Marseille said...

how fun! I loved girls camp!