after the water

Calgary flood police carIt is a week that will be remembered in our corner of creation. More accurately it is the week after the week that will be remembered. This week will likely be forgotten in the long sweep of time as the fear and loss and ache are shoveled out of basements and into city garbage bins and towns in Southern Alberta throw away bits and pieces of a pre-flood life.
A spring full of grey skies and wet days led to a saturated world and snowy peaks to the west all came roaring down valleys with one foul swoop chased by 36 hours of rain. Houses, cars, bridges, roads, and lives washed away in a boiling brown froth.

Thursday brought rumours of high water and flooding to the West and Friday the rumour roared to life for those further down the line. We watched our docile stream become a force unstoppable as it destroyed the bridge (still temporary from last year’s flood) washing away giant concrete blocks as though they were the plastic lego toys they so resemble. Our river jumped sideways 5 meters in places, coming to rest with a deceptive innocence as though trying too hard to convince you that no no, this is where it always has been.

The water is down in our little river and despite a world that squelches wherever you step, we are, in the nomenclature of our time, “dry.”
No damage to speak of. No losses to claim.

Not so for so many others. I have been watching in voyeuristic shock as the footage of flooded houses/cars/arenas/bridges wanders across my little screen. I watch one interview after another with the displaced, their eyes rimmed with fatigue and fear driven by the unknown.

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And then 2,000 people show up to volunteer and they don’t know where to put them all and neighbors arrive to help haul wet furniture out of basements and Mayor Nenshi may just be the most likable guy on the planet and I saw my first Calgary flood jokes today and where there is humour there is hope.

We are hoping to take a day of our staff training next week and go help. We are hoping to shovel our share of muck and haul some furniture but the good news is that nobody seems to need us.

The story certainly does not end here. Life moves forward as it insists on doing and basements are mucked out and things are replaced. The good people in High River continue to wait for permission to see what remains after intense flooding in their community and many lives remain frustratingly suspended. Good people are working hard to fix this and will keep working long into the night of this catastrophe because this ain’t no short term project.

In all of this we prepare for summer. We process camper registrations and set up program areas and train staff. I am thinking of the many impacted including the camps: Gardener, Kiwanis, Horizon, and many others. Our campers arrive on Friday and my glib answer to the ever-present questions “Are you ready?” has always been “We are never as ready as we want to be, but they come anyway.” seems to fit even more than the average year.
And so from Camp Valaqua we pray for a summer of safety for you. A summer of sunshine. A summer of laughter and growth and once in a lifetime experiences repeated weekly and if you find time, we invite you to join us in our little slice of creation to Experience God in Creation.

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the grace to grow

graceEach year during our staff training week I lead a session called “stupid things I have said and done.” During this session I focus on some of the more glaring failures that have occurred over my otherwise illustrious career in the wonderful world of Summer Camp. There have been some doozies, let me tell you.

The staff loves this session. They love listening to me recount tales of boundary crossing and poor decision making. They laugh at my stories of pranks gone wrong and devotions hijacked and act appropriately somber when I try to convey the lessons learned through each of these events. I think it’s likely that the staff loves this session mostly because it humanizes me and allows them to laugh at mistakes they may well have made themselves but that remain too fresh for humour. What strikes me is that in my time at Camp, I have been given the opportunity to mess up over and over.

summer-camp-staffI had the opportunity this winter to sit in a circle of Camp Directors and talk about staff discipline. It was an interesting conversation as we looked at various scenarios of staff infraction and discussed our responses to them. The circle held a broad range of camp Directors from a broad range of camps and so each scenario elicited the expected broad range of reactions. What struck me in those scenarios is how quickly we proceed to firing our imaginary employees for their imaginary transgressions. It was a straightforward and unanimous decision in the more extreme cases that included drug use and abuse, but became progressively blurrier when it came to individual camp rules and abuses of time off and we began to hear some dissenting voices, mine was among them. In my eight years at Valaqua I have yet to fire an employee. I would love to tell you that it is because our staff members are so amazing that none of them have ever made an error so grave and that would be mostly true. My staff messes up. Heck, I still mess up. The only thing that keeps us all going and all together is grace.

See, I don’t like the idea of persecution. I don’t like the idea of making an example of someone. I get that it is effective, I get that groups of people respond to this, but I don’t like to think about sacrificing even one person for the betterment of the group. I am stubbornly unwilling to give up on a staff member (or friend, or family member) and will sometimes go to ridiculous lengths to support that person. Maybe this is because I am a soft touch, maybe this suggests softness in my cranium, but I think it has more to do with the ridiculous lengths that others have gone to for me. It takes a village to raise a child and it takes an even bigger village to raise a whole and healthy adult.

So while I prepare for yet another session of telling unflattering tales on myself I find myself reflecting on grace. As a young Counsellor and Program Director I was extended enormous grace by those who supervised me. When I put all of my mistakes into one pile it seems amazing to me that I was invited back year after year. The thing is, each of those mistakes taught me something. Each of my lapses in judgement, each of my attempts at humour gone wrong, each of my moments on the wrong side of the line have taught me a lesson that I carry with me today and make me the competent (mostly), capable (usually), and compassionate (for the most part) camp staffer that I have become. I have learned grace by demonstration and now I try to show it to the young staff who choose to call Valaqua home. I even try to show it to myself every once and a while, which is admittedly harder.

So we go into camp.  Campers come on Friday and don’t stop until the end of August.  In this season of sunshine (we hope) and shorts I wish you grace.  Grace with those you interact with and grace shown to you.

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Hike-a-thon!

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A wonderful day on Saturday with our 12th Annual Hike-a-thon on the go. This year’s event took us to Powderface Ridge in Kananaskis and 32 intrepid hikers braved a questionable forecast to join us for a day in the mountains. So with a beautiful mountain view always over your shoulder and the sun on our faces we gathered for another event to celebrate and raise funds for Camp Valaqua.

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This hike was steep but the views were great. The rain held off and the sun kept us company for bits and pieces of the day and the 32 gathered walked through cool pine forest, flowery alpine meadows, and on to the eventual bald rocky summit to share lunch and lean our backs into the cool and persistent wind that found us there.

I love Hike-a-thon. For me, any day in the mountains is a good one and one spent with friends is better yet. The group we shared the mountains with on Saturday was a wonderful group to spend a day with. The common denominator was Camp Valaqua and the connections to it were many and varied. From our core group of Hike-a-thoners who have been with us for all of our 12 hikes to young staff members and their families to past staff, the group shared one common thread; a passion for camp.

That passion was very much on display when we counted up the funds raised at the end of the day… over $16,000! This SMASHES our existing Hike-a-thon record by more than $4,000! What a wonderful end to a wonderful day. THANK YOU to all who came to hike, to all who raised money, to all who sponsored a hiker and contributed to our total. These funds allow us to continue to offer extraordinary programming and facilities at ordinary prices. Thank you for helping us to help another generation to Discover God in Creation.

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The Out-Trip Lifestyle; One worth sharing

DSC_1768.NEFWhen I landed in Calgary two weeks ago I was picked up from the airport by the other half of the Out-Trip Team here at Camp Valaqua; Carol McNaughton. After a few minutes of catching up we set to figure out the important question, how soon could we get to the mountains? As soon as I landed in Calgary I felt the pull of the mountains to the west of me and knew that was where I wanted to go. Thankfully I am teamed up with someone equally as adventurous and after a brief stop to pack a lunch we were headed west in search of a mountain to hike and some rock to climb.

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Since that first day in the Canadian Rockies two weeks ago I have enjoyed five other similar days rock climbing, scrambling, canoeing, and mountain biking, all great adventure-filled days spent with good friends in beautiful country, but also so much more than that. Because of my position as the Out-Trip Director at Camp Valaqua each one of those days becomes a scouting trip, it becomes time to practice my technical rope skills or paddling skills and to practice making risk management decisions. I am constantly making mental notes about what makes the day more enjoyable for those around me even when the rain has turned the limestone into slimestone and becomes un-climbable. Looking for alternate activities when the weather turns sour and keeping spirits high nonetheless is a skill appreciated by my friends and campers alike. These outdoor hobbies that I have been so blessed to participate in and have grown to love and in turn introduce to others have become a lifestyle for me.

A huge part of this lifestyle is the planning. Currently, I am excitedly putting together trip plans for the three adventure-filled Out-Trips that Camp Valaqua is offering this summer in July. This does involve a serious amount of 

time in the office researching, looking at maps and booking campsites. While it may not sound like the most exciting part of this position, I have grown to love it. It is the time when anticipation grows. I learn of all the campers I will get to share this lifestyle with for a week and decide on what mountains, rivers, trails and rock faces I will get to spend this time with them. Because without the campers there is no lifestyle. The awesome campers, the Hana’s and Magda’s, the Sam’s, Mason’s and Tessa’s are what give my lifestyle purpose.

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So in return I really want to give them a worthwhile experience, one that extends beyond just an opportunity to get outside, and becomes an opportunity to grow and explore who they are as God’s children in his natural playground he has made for us to explore.

Anyone who has ever asked me what I do in the summer and why I have chosen this lifestyle have probably heard me explain the reasons I believe this lifestyle is worth sharing. I have told others about it more than a hundred times but this is the first time I will put it into writing.

The first reason has to do with my experience when I was first introduced to backcountry camping, rock climbing, and canoeing which was only three years ago, it was all so new for me and in some ways still is and always will be. It was outside of what I knew, it was uncomfortable at times and downright terrifying at others. And the result was that it forced me to be real about who I was. I have found that when young people are placed into new situations they cannot help but being their genuine self because they have no prior experience to fall back on. It is raw, it is real and it creates a space for honest questions and conversations about life and God. Something I like to call the campfire effect.

The second reason I believe this lifestyle is worth sharing is because I love experiential learning. There are a few lessons in my life that I learned at very specific instances, the lessons are linked to specific trips and specific experiences. These types of lessons that I can link to a particular memory, are the ones I will never forget, and so many of these lessons have occurred while hiking, climbing, and just enjoying this world with the right people. Learning through experience.

So I would like to personally invite anyone and everyone (between the ages of 12-17) to come and share this Out-Trip lifestyle with me this summer, it begins at Camp Valaqua and who knows (well I do) where we might be swept off to. Yes it will probably rain at some point and it will definitely be physically challenging; you may get scared at times and you will probably find some dirt (trail spice) in your lunch at some point. But it will be real, it will be an adventure and you will share the whole experience with others who it is all new to as well.

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From the CIT Director

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Growing as a CIT

I became a part of the Camp Valaqua staff team as a Counselor-in-training (CIT) with the famous last words, “I think I’ll just do a few weeks one summer and that’ll be it, then I will get a “real job,”” but here I am six summers later still working hard at what I love. For many of our staff, the life of a Valaqua staffer all starts with one of the most amazing programs that I have had the opportunity to be a part of. From what I
Growing with the campershave experienced and witnessed the CIT program is the building block of camp. The first week of summer a bunch of wild, crazy, excited, and nervous CIT’s walk into the lodge with not a clue in the world of what they have in store. However, the true treasure of the CIT program is the growth that each of these young adults experience.

So many of the CIT’s that come to camp come because they love children. Watching these young people spend four weeks in cabins with kids of all ages is a truly incredible thing to witness. The CIT’s have so much energy and excitement, it makes them great match for the energy levels of the kids who come here. The kids look up to the CIT in ways you would not believe. Countless times I have witnessed CIT’s learn lessons about themselves from the interactions with the campers. They start to realize what it means to serve others, like how Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. I love working with children and let me tell you if there is one thing we can all learn from them is that looking cool having cool stuff is not everything, that there is more in life than that. The campers teach CIT’s that it is okay to laugh and be silly even if it makes you look funny. CIT’s grow with the campers and begin to learn what it means to be a follower of God.

Growing in community

Camp has been one of the most intentional communities I have ever been a part of. I am still in contact with many of the people I CITed with. Who knew that as a 16 year old I would meet lifelong friends and many new and amazing people? In a mere two weeks, before we have even touched the surface of the summer at camp the CIT’s have already created memories, heard one another’s stories, and become a tight knit community. Slowly as the weeks go on the CIT’s start to drop their guards and start to show who they really are. The second week of orientation is when I start to see the first real growth of community. During this time the CIT’s start to let one another in and soon we have a group of CIT’s who you can’t pull apart! Their shared memories, stories, and experiences allow them to go from a group of individuals to a single entity.

Growing in themselves.

Sometimes I feel that you don’t truly know who God created you to be until you come to camp. July runs around and the CIT’s a bunch of high energy youth with so many unique talents that are extremely nervous about the summer to come. In no time at all they start to feel right at home. Camp is a safe place that allows even the most quiet and timid of young adults to open up. Leading the CIT program I have seen this phenomenon over and over again. In today’s society we are so pressured by the new “trends” and social networks we don’t have time to realize what we want or what God wants for us and we tend to bend to what other people want for us. So many of the CIT’s that come to camp have lost themselves in the material world. At camp they start to find themselves and open up because they no longer feel restricted by such barriers of society and they become the person that God made them to be. While they are here, they realize that they are amazing individuals with so many unique gifts, and talents.

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Growing with God

Camp is an amazing place to meet God and if I had a nickel for every time I have heard someone say they met God at camp I would have about a dollar. So many new staff members here learn how to open up to God and who God is. They start to learn that God is a part of their lives on a grander scale. Many CIT’s come to camp having many questions and not knowing where to start. Within the intentional community and vast beauty of God’s creation I feel it is easier for teens to stop to find God. Finding God can be a lot harder in the hustle and bustle of our day to day lives. At camp CIT’s get opportunities to pause and reflect and discover God for themselves through devotions they lead, amazing chaplains or just in the peace of the woods.

I have been blessed to be able to work so closely with the CIT’s: laughing with them, watching them learn, and growing to become faithful followers. Whether they meet a new friend, change a camper’s life, find God, or discover who they really are, each one of them grows in their unique way. Spending time talking to the CIT’s is my favorite part of my job. Listening to the stories, experiences, and troubles of the young men and women who volunteer in the CIT program is an amazing window into the lives of these young people who dedicate a summer to camp Valaqua.

Camp Valaqua is thankful for Kevin Stoesz and his dedication to our CIT program. Kevin is serving his sixth summer at Valaqua and his second as CIT Director. He looks forward to another summer of huge fun and amazing growth with the 15 young people who have committed to spending the summer here at Camp Valaqua.  He also doubles as Iron Santa when the real Iron Santa is unavailable for camp functions.

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A Sunday at Springridge

A terrific sort of a day yesterday. Yesterday morning found me rolling out of bed at the unreasonable hour of 5:30 to allow time for a commute to Southern Alberta.

How is five thirty in the morning like a pig’s tail? It’s twirly. (get it? Too early? I know… good one right.)

windmills and mountains2So anyway steaming South and a quick stop for a McDonald’s breakfast which is my guilty pleasure on these early mornings and then on south with the porcupine hills rising gently to my right and the sharp white of recent snow punctuating the jagged skyline of mountains that peek out from behind the foothills. Today I am at Springridge, a small country church outside of Pincher Creek and as I near the church I roll through a country powerfully alive. In the shadow of huge white turbines dancing pirouettes to the west wind I startle partridge in the ditch and see my first ever golden eagle as it dives after prey only to fly off without success as my small car wizzes past.

The church is a small country affair and the door is unlocked and the crowd is welcoming. We are doing an appreciative inquiry session today and this means I get to hear stories about involvement at Camp over the years and this small group has a lot of stories. Members at Springridge have served on boards, come up for work days, sent kids and grandkids, and generally been part of the lifeblood at camp for many years. I am always so thankful for these stories of the early days and the challenges. The history of Valaqua is one full of great dedication and hard work and this group has worked as hard as any.

Then on to the service and it’s my turn to tell stories. The verse is Mathew 6:25-34 and this is my favourite verse and despite the fact that anyone who knows me knows I use the word “favourite” too much this is actually my favourite verse in the bible. It featured at our wedding and in my baptism and has been a verse of poetry that has spoken to me through my years.

Such a simple message; do not worry. “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these.” I will consider the lilies of the field and I will try not to worry, but it’s hard this time of year.

Church leads into a lunch invitation and wonderful lasagna at John and Petra’s with lovely company and before I know it it’s time to roll North. Then home again home again and I make it in time for a family bike ride in the evening and collapse into bed to get ready for another Monday

It was indeed a terrific sort of a day; one full of greeting old friends and meeting new ones. A day full of worship and visiting, stories and laughter. Thank you Springrdige for sharing your Sunday morning with me. Let’s make sure we get to do it again soon.

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Why I keep coming back

By Valaqua’s own friendly and talented Office Administrator and Activities Guru Allison Goerzen

I have been at Camp Valaqua as a staff member now for 6 summers. I started as a CIT, pumped and ready to make friends with other staff and experience the “other side” of camp. I grew up into a counsellor and now find myself for a second time as leadership in the office. I am beginning to better understand the bigger picture of camp and I have become very passionate about camp’s mission: to provide a safe and caring environment for campers to experience God in community, nature and themselves! Knowing that camp is something that I am so excited about, I have recently begun to give a lot of thought as to why I keep coming back. My conclusion has been this: camp is where my understanding of faith becomes literal.

DSC06018Caring for Creation

In Genesis the story of human kind begins with the understanding that we are created beings who were made to care for God’s Earth. The translation of what this means in practice is widely varied but I find that for me, it is really not complex. We live in a world where an ecological footprint is inevitable and there is not a “fix all” solution to eliminate the damage we cause to the environment. But I think that God cares about our intentions more and so I like to do everything in my knowledge to care for the environment. At camp I learned how easy it can be to conserve water, recycle your plastics, and compost your scraps. I know it isn’t much but living in a community where everyone does their share and is open to talking about improvements is certainly a step in the right direction.

Love and Care for Children

Caring for creation means that we have a responsibility to care for ourselves too. The words to a children’s song come to mind: “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world…” How much more literal can that be than at camp? We make it our priority every summer to make sure that we provide a safe and loving place for children so that they have an amazing experience. It even goes one step further when I think of the campers who come from places where they do not experience love on a regular basis. I get so excited when I get to see a camper thrive at camp and experience that love from our staff. In a parable in Mathew, Jesus explains: “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me (Mathew 25:40).” As staff it is exciting that camp gives us a place to do exactly that as part of our jobs!

Hearing Each Other’s Stories

As part of loving each camper and creating a connected community among staff members, we invite time in our schedules to share stories. Campers get a chance during evening devotionals and each staff member shares their faith story during orientation. While traveling in South Africa, I began to understand the power of sharing stories. While visiting Pollsmoor Prison we got to be a part of a restorative justice exercise. We listened to inmates tell us how they had apologized to their family members and victims and then listen to how their actions had affected them. It had an incredible impact on the men, and many became very changed people after the experience. When they turned around and told the stories to us, we were likewise changed and they have now become a part of our stories. I like to think that a story holds incredible power to affect change, legitimize emotions, and create restorative, loving friendships. At camp when we share our stories and listen to others’, we have created a space for a loving community rooted in deep friendships.

DSC06076Living in Community 

The care we take in creating deep relationships makes for living in an awesome community. I have loved watching new friendships develop every summer that will last a lifetime. Even though such an intense community can have its challenges, it allows for youth to learn a lot about themselves, how to work and live with others, and come together through the hard stuff. I love that we are so diligent in making time for one-on-ones and mentoring so that we are never left feeling alone with hardships. In the early church, there is an emphasis on community as an interdependent body of believers who share resources, care for one another, and facilitate the coming of God’s kingdom on Earth. I like that camp can be the modern day example of what such a community can look like.

Be Who You AreIron Santa

Camp is a place of silliness, creativity, and ridiculous ideas coming to life. This means that I get the joy of watching first-year staff members discover who they are. For some it is a terrifying leap of faith to step out of their comfort zones and be a little silly. For others, it is a deep sigh of relief as they realize the person they have wanted to be can finally be expressed in an easy-going group of friends.

In terms of personal faith, I believe that a faith that has not undergone doubt and questions is a dead one. How would we overcome questions in the future if we have not first made sought our own answers? With that in mind, I love that camp lets youth ask the big questions, wonder what is right for them, and do so without judgement. I have seen so many staff from Valaqua go out to be leaders in their own circles, and I wonder if that would not be the case if we did not allow for growth and learning here first.

So why do I come back?

In my day-to-day routines at camp, I feel so blessed to be able to live out my faith. It is hard to see my summers at camp as “work” when I feel so strongly about our mission statement. I feel passionately about what I do and know that I am working with people who feel the same. The other staff members are like family to me and I have made connections here that will carry on throughout my life. I love what I do and I know that I have learned things here that impact my faith today. I am excited to see every camper registration that comes across my desk and I can’t help thinking about what their experience will be here with us. Every person who chooses to spend time at camp becomes part of something bigger and I hope they will leave knowing how important it was.

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Work Day

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Written and photographed by our fun loving and wonderful Assistant Director Jesse Thiessen

This past weekend here at Valaqua we invited anyone who was willing to come out and help us clean up the camp. We had around 25 camp supporters come out and chop wood, clear bush, clean gutters, and generally made camp ready for the upcominDSC_0038g summer! A group went out to the overnighter spots and set up three tipis, a newer part of camp that adds another level of excitement for campers. Five new cabins were all set up with all the fixings and ready to be used. The teamwork that was experienced over the course of the day was truly inspiring to watch. Loyal supporters who never miss a Valaqua event joined us as well as a young families who are excited to come back in the next few months for summer camp. A fair number of past and future staff members drove out with much energy and enthusiasm wanting to help wherever they were able. As a community we sat around tables at lunch enjoying each-others company with good conversation over a steaming bowl of chili.

This coming summer will be my seventh year at Valaqua, in the new and exciting role of the Assistant Director. It’s really encouraging to see so many supporters of camp come out and dedicate their time. To hear stories of Valaqua from past staff members is something I really look forward too. In the seven years I have worked here, I have grown so much personally and spiritually, seeing camp do the same for others is a real exciting part of my job for the summer. Without so many supporters of Valaqua, camp would not be the same. We thank everyone for putting their time and energy into a truly amazing place.

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one breath

breathMennonite Central Committee Alberta is at camp this week with a program called Planting Peace. This program gathers young people from all around the world to spend a week learning, sharing, and bonding to promote peace and understanding between cultures and hopefully peace in general. It’s been great having the MCC Alberta team here and we are enjoying the chance to meet so many bright young folks from around the world.

Today the group has Richard Wagamese sharing with them, an Ojibway author of some acclaim and kind of a big deal so a few of us staff types took advantage of the opportunity to sit in on his morning session. He began by telling us a creation story. In the Ojibway tradition, the world began with a void containing nothing and everything. This was a sacred place as it contained all that is and would be sacred. Into this void, creator sent a song and when the song came back unheard, the creator decided it was time to create those who could hear. Creator breathed into the void the one breath. The one breath that sustains us and gives us life and the one breath that we share.

I love this.

The idea that we share breath; that I inhale the air you exhale, that I share breath with the trees and the deer and the fish and the people across the world and the people from ages past and the people who are yet to come. This is a powerful image of interconnectedness. We are tied together by the breath of life from the first breath God breaths into our fragile bodies until the last breath escapes and carries us home.

Our hour with Richard is still rolling around in my brain well into the afternoon and will keep my pondering for a long time to come.

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That phone in your pocket.

Sell-old-cell-phoneAh, the ubiquitous cell phone. If you are a person who pays attention to the world of summer camp, then you know that that little cell phone is a pretty hot topic. Camps have been wrestling with personal technology issues since the Walkman and with ipods and smartphones more prevalent than ever, it isn’t a topic that’s going away.

So, why do we try to keep the phones/ipods/personal technology away? Well, I’m glad you asked that question. Camp Valaqua strongly discourages technology at camp. We do this with our campers and also with our staff, including myself. I have become a smart phone junkie, but when I am at camp, my cell phone stays home. What I want to emphasize is that we don’t do this “just because.” Here are the reasons for our wish to stay as un-virtual as possible

Technology takes a person out of the moment
Camp is an intense, short term event and we want our campers and our staff to connect with every moment of it. Having music in your ears that only you can hear (ear buds) or communicating with someone far away via text or email keeps you from sharing in the music that is all around you and from communicating with people right in front of you. We strive to build community at camp and that can only happen when we are present to participate in the community

Cell phones and Ipods are expensive
Cell phones are a sign of status among young people. Having the latest and greatest smart phone or mp3 player bestows a certain status on the owner and can create barriers to relationship forming.
Modern phones are also very expensive and not particularly robust. Having a phone get smashed or go for a swim is not something that any of us want. The camp environment is notoriously hard on equipment and especially equipment as fragile as a cell phone or ipod.

It is an issue of trust
I am a parent myself and I am honored by the trust that so many parents show us each year when they choose Valaqua to drop off their kids. At Camp Valaqua, our number one priority is to ensure that your child is safe but we will not downplay the fears you have as a parent leaving your child in another’s care. We understand the wish to be able to communicate with your child and that wish may even be reciprocated by your son or daughter but it becomes an issue of trust on several levels:
First, you need to trust your son or daughter. One of the areas that we see kids grow in leaps and bounds at camp is self-confidence and this is because they are given the space to make their own decisions. We need to trust our kids enough to give them this room.
Secondly, we ask you to trust us. Camp Valaqua has been running summer camps for more than 50 years. Our staff members are carefully vetted and the majority of them have grown up in our programs. We know them well and we train them thoroughly. As a parent myself I am keenly aware of what I ask here and I know this is a challenge, but I want you to know that we have your child’s best interest at heart. Always.
Valaqua is not a “no phone calls home” camp. If phone calls to mom or dad will help your child be successful, we will happily make arrangements. Our goal is for your child to have a successful week here at camp and we will do everything in our power to make that happen.

We all need to unplug from time to time
Canadian children today average over 7.5 hours of screen time A DAY. This number staggered me. Our country is facing an epidemic of obesity that springs inarguably from our sedentary behaviour. At camp we teach kids that it is possible to have fun without a power outlet. One of the comments we here more and more from our campers and staff is a deep appreciation for the chance to unplug.
There is a spot down by the river at Valaqua where flowers grow. The rhythms of the spring and summer can be measured by the beats of the bursts of wildflowers. Wood lilies stand tall and bold in early July, the bluebells hang fragile and swing in the wind as the month moves on, Goats beard climbs high and bursts forth bright yellow in early August, Yarrow blooms white and then goldenrod comes out yellow as the summer winds its way into fall. We walk through this place every day in summer as we make our way to waterfront or to an overnighter spot. The peace I feel in this place helps to remind me the importance of unplugging in our hectic lives.

Your phone won’t work here
Also, cell phones don’t work too well here. Our corner of creation is remote enough that cell coverage is spotty at best and non-existent at worst.

And that is the long way of saying that we will remain a mostly technology free site at Valaqua. It’s not because we hate technology. It’s not because we are control freaks. It is to help make the camp experience a more profound one and to give the kids who come here the best possible chance to succeed.

What do you think? This is a hot issue. Have an opinion? Share it with us!

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