These kids want to look up to you and want to be like you – they admire everything you do so don’t feel pressured, just be yourself and you will be amazing

Talia Newmark

At camp I worked as a counsellor for 9 year old girls. This meant that I spent all day everyday with these girls looking after and caring for them, going from rotation to rotation doing activities such as ropes course, dance and sports with them. Whilst this was tiring at times it gave me the opportunity to form the most incredible bonds with them, learning that being a counsellor is truly a special and unique job. Spending so much time with a small group of kids really gives you the opportunity to create deep connections and memories with your campers that truly do last a lifetime.

The opportunity to impact these children’s lives in some way or another is something I did not realise before I went on camp. Before going to camp in America this summer I had attended many different camps in the UK as both a camper and a leader. I therefore went to camp thinking that I was well equipped for the role I was about to face. However, the first day of staff week was one of the most daunting experiences. The camps leadership staff spent a week teaching us the roles and responsibilities of a counsellor. There were so many things to remember and I remember thinking how am I going to do this? We then got allocated our co-counsellors and a list of our kid’s names and it all became very real. Sitting painting welcome signs, I remember turning to my co-counsellor and saying, “how do you know what you’re doing all the time?” She then gave me a piece of advice that I did not forget all summer. She said these kids want to look up to you and want to be like you they admire everything you do so don’t feel pressured just be yourself and you will be amazing.

This notion of “being yourself’ is something people had said to me in so many occasions in different scenarios, at school, at university, with my friends but I had never truly understood the meaning. I just presumed that obviously I am myself. However, camp truly gave me the opportunity to step out of my comfort zone and push myself to be the best version of myself. Stretching my confidence to new levels, for the first time ever I felt as though I could be who I wanted to be, and no one would judge me in fact they encouraged this best version of me.  My favourite memory from camp this summer was at the end of the first session when one of my campers was leaving, I was saying goodbye to her and being introduced to her mother and the camper just looked and me and then looked at her mum and said “please can Talia come back with us”. This was the first moment I truly realised how special my job was and how much I could impact one child in only 2 weeks of knowing them.

Another aspect of camp that truly made my summer the best experience of my life was the amazing people I met from all over the world. Going away from home for 8 weeks is a concept scary to most and perhaps would have been to me had I not met the most incredible people who supported me along the way making those 8 weeks fly by. Very early on at the start of camp I remember being told that as a whole 150 members of staff we would be packing our bags and going on a 6 hour beach hike up the mountains in the 40 degree heat. The thought of this hike terrified me, and I could not think of anything worse that climbing mountains at the best of times let alone in the boiling heat with a group of people I barely knew. However, now looking back that hike was a defining moment of my camp. The 6 hours out in the beautiful nature taking in the scenery having the most ridiculous conversations about pretty much everything, with people who by the end became some of my best friends and would support me along my camp journey. Listening to blaring music, talking to people from all around the world, hearing the experiences of ex-Israeli soldiers and scouts sand comparing them to the experiences of my friends from Canada and South Africa. All sharing our cultures and traditions was a memory that I will cherish forever.

Camp JCA Shalom truly provided me with the most incredible experience of my life and I honestly cannot express enough how much it encouraged my confidence and helped me to grow as a person. It also provided me with the most incredible friends from all around the world and for that I am truly grateful.