Campers Need Camp More Than Ever
Our children need camp more than ever! That is my takeaway after my 18th year leading Ramah New England. I obviously am a camp believer as I have dedicated my career to Ramah. However, due to a series of factors (many of which relate to the ripple effects of the pandemic), camp is even more critical than ever before. Here are some reasons why:
- Children and young adults are hurting. I heard an alarming statistic that in North America around 3,000 high-school-age children attempt suicide daily. In talking to my school, camp and mental health colleagues, the number of children who have mental health support plans continues to only rise. Camp, in combination with other supports and care, is one place where kids can be kids, where they are nurtured and supervised and can grow and discover without the pressures of school.
- Social media and the internet are having a tremendous negative impact. First, our kids are spending too much time online and not enough interacting. Second, many of the messages online are negative and can even be mean and bullying – and this type of negative messaging is harder to address in the online environment than it is when it occurs in person. We are seeing a rise in kid-on-kid violence with some direct copying of ideas that children see on social media. Giving your camper one to two months offline when they are interacting with real people is one of the most important gifts you can give your child. Additionally, camp is a place where kids learn how to relate to all types of people, make friends and be kind and respectful to others.
- Due to the pandemic and catching up in so many areas, kids don’t have the Jewish literacy or community interactions they used to have. They need immersive and fun Jewish experiences to catch up and connect to Judaism. Over the course of the summer (and summers), I have seen kids learn and experience the joy of living in a vibrant Jewish community.
- Kids need positive role models who they can relate to. Social media influencers are powerful, but camp counselors who live with your kids and care about them can have an even bigger impact for the good. Camp is the best place for kids to know that there are people who love and care about them.
Camp, at its best, is where each person feels they matter, they are valued, and they belong. It also provides a sense of community, a place of joy and laughter and a safe place to try new things and take risks. Package this with a supportive Jewish community and you can see why so many of campers and staff say, “we live 10 months for 2.”