Thursday, August 23, 2012

Giving back with stories

How often do you give back to your community or to an organization?  I am not talking about giving money, popping a check in the mail; I am talking about giving your time and energy to something you care about, or have strong feelings about.

Every summer for something like seven or eight years I have been going to a single week long camp held in Fairlee, Vermont. It is run by volunteers mostly and is only available to under-served kids from Vermont.   It is called CAMP! (if you were to say it out loud – or want to Google it, it would be Camp Exclamation Point).  The Aloha Foundation give them space to hold the camp at the last week of summer, when most other camps are over and done with.  The children have plenty of challenges in their lives, but CAMP! gives them a week to get away from it all and share, play, create, explore and have fun in a healthy and safe environment.  The camp is like most any other camp, but these kids are not as well off as most camp kids.  CAMP! serves those who have limited opportunities for such an experience because of a lack of financial resources, rural isolation, and disruption of life and education. Yet these kids are just like other camp kids – they are kids!

There is a sense of love for the children at CAMP! which goes beyond the ‘call of duty’.  CAMP! is a vocation, a passion; the councilors have a desire that these kids get some amazing experiences that they would never normally be able to have. Let me stress that, never normally be able to have.  Most of us have the opportunity to send our kids to a camp of some sort – be it a day camp for a few days or a week camp, fortnight or summer camp.  We have that choice.  But this camp is set up for those who do not have that choice, but CAMP! make it possible.  They get funds so even the most economically challenged family can send their children to paint, write, read, sing, act, sculpt, experience archery, learn to swim, do woodwork, learn about plants and nature, make new friends, know that they are not the only ones who have such difficulties, and of course make their own tie-dye tee shirts!

Each year I go to CAMP! to tell stories and volunteer my services. It is not much, I feel, but it is what I can do and this is how I give back to my community: when I go to CAMP!. For one afternoon, or evening, I perform there and spend extra time with the kids when I am able – and I try to make it so I am able.  Last night with a voice almost gone after a busy summer, I, along with colleague and friend Angela Klingler told stories to the entire camp before the kids were spilt into groups for individual camp fire stories based on age.  It is always fun to work with Angela as she is the consummate professional and has this magic about her when she tells the deep stories, which she did for the entire camp.  I have also worked with Angela around Halloween and know she knows some great campfire stories for all ages.  This is the second time she has volunteered to make the 2 /2 hour drive to CAMP! to tell tales.

I got to walk the hill with the eldest of the CAMP! kids and their councilors to a favourite quiet spot in the woods to tell tales and got to bring out some really fun and creepy tales for the ‘tweens and teens.  There is something about the darkness and the flames that can make a not-so-scary story seem quite spectacularly creepy.
This was in 2008, but feels like a few months ago!

These kids are great.  They are so appreciative of everyone.  I only appear for one day in one week in the year, but the kids remember me.  There are some kids who jump up and run over to give me a hug, there are those who jump out of seats to high-five me, and there are even more who simply grin at me or shout a loud ‘hi Simon storyteller guy’ when I arrive knowing that Wednesday night is story night.  And those hugs, high-fives shouts and smiles, and the stories I have to share are all I need.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yeah Simon. I loved hearing about CAMP! and how you and Angela volunteered your time and talents. I can tell that you get as much as you give. This is inspiring. It is a good practice to have some regular yearly ways to give back through story. We all thrive on ritual events.
Thanks for sharing.
Elisa P.