Nivonim Leadership Training: Learning to Give the Ramah Experience to Others
For Nivonim, our oldest chanichim (campers), this summer feels like the culmination of their journey through the edot (divisions) at camp. But it is actually the beginning of a new journey: that of one day coming back to camp as a member of our summer tzevet (staff). A central part of the Nivonim experience is the summer-long Hadracha (Leadership Training) Program. In Hadracha, the Nivonimers receive training and also have multiple opportunities to lead younger campers – as Madrichim (counselors) in Training (MITs) and as the heads of major camp-wide programs, such as the always popular Yom Sport and, this year, the NivoEats café. Through training and direct experience, they transition from being the receivers of the Ramah experience to being the transmitters of the Ramah experience. Andy Weissfeld, Rosh Nivonim, emphasizes that “giving this experience to others is central to the Ramah experience.”
When the summer began, Andy gathered the edah to explain the importance of their roles this summer. They would be spending two mornings each week with younger chanichim, in Kochavim through Bogrim (ages 8-14), and with Amitzim, the edah for chanichim with disabilities. One morning the MITs help to run programs designed by the madrichim, and one morning they design and run their own activities for the chanichim. Andy emphasized that their conduct in these important roles will be “how you – as an edah, and as individuals – will be remembered by these chanichim.” Andy anticipated that they would find it challenging to transition to their new roles, given that they had missed their Machon summer, which provides an important transition, and many opportunities at home to serve as peer leaders in their high schools and local youth groups.
Now, over a month into the Hadracha Program, the MITs have found the balance between being peers to the chanichim, and being leaders. They are proud to have provided the younger chanichim with the amazing experiences of Yom Sport and the NivoEats café, a new program to jump-start Machzor Shenei (Second Session). The café proved to be a great way to get in front of the new chanichim right away, and to offer a very lively and fun experience. And they are much more comfortable in leading the younger chanichim on Mondays and Wednesdays, when they have significant responsibilities for their assigned tzrifim (bunks).
Nomi G, who loves little kids, has been assigned to work with Kochavim, the youngest chanichim. She notes that it is “fun to talk to them – they look up to you, you’re their role models.” Jacob S and Maya K are working with Shoafim (rising 7th graders). Jacob shares that they can be mature in some social interactions, but also find it hard to sit and listen for a long time. However, “once we developed a relationship, I gained their respect.” Maya notes that it is challenging to balance her roles as friend and leader. She appreciates their energy. Now that they know one another better, “they often shout out at me around camp – and I blow kisses to them.”
Elliot B is working with Bogrim. He notes that these chanichim, who are only two years younger, have sometimes “had issues with our authority because they see us as campers.” But “after gaining their trust and showing them that I can be a friend to them, they have been nicer and friendlier to me.”
In sum, after losing a summer of camp and so many of their usual at-home activities, the Nivonimers are shining in their new roles as leaders of camp, and are well along on their journeys to become the transmitters of the Ramah experience.