July 4th: The Official Start of the Summer
Creating A Feeling of Profound Belonging at Camp
I’ve always felt the 4th of July is the unofficial start of summer. Staff training week gives our counselors the tools they will need to take care of other people’s children. Then the best day of the year, opening day, campers arrive! For the past ten days everyone is getting familiar with the routine of camp. On Independence Day everyone is in full camp mode. In other words, Camp feels like home.
At Camp Wekeela, we build belonging. Camp Wekeela changes children’s loves by creating fun and exciting experiences that give them the opportunity to explore and discover the best version of themselves. Some of the principles we utilize in supporting our campers is creating a feeling of profound belonging. Our goal is to be super thoughtful in our approach. A few of our principles we feel are worth sharing with you are how we shape our program and culture to build belonging:
Embodying our belief that there are many ways to be a woman and a man. We give boys and girls a diverse array of role models — men and women (many former Wekeela campers are now counselors) in whom campers can see aspects of the selves they seek to develop. When the people around us model the same humility, humor, talent, and compassion that we seek to develop in ourselves, they help us to recognize the sturdy roots of those same virtues within us. In such moments, we know that we are in a place where we belong.
Focusing on what is personal, real, and lasting. Too often children learn to gauge belonging through external signals: the music they listen to, the brands they wear, the devices they own. The result can be toxic, especially for children, who learn to measure themselves against dangerously narrow standards of masculinity. By embracing simplicity — in the clothing we wear, the music we make, the technology we leave at home — we foster deeper connections with each other and even within ourselves.
Emphasizing honesty as the most direct path towards a life of substance and meaning. Ultimately, belonging is not an external validation, but an authentic way of being. Honesty — and its companion, vulnerability — are signs of strength and signals of openness. Honesty elevates relationships beyond the superficial and invites us towards friendships in which we have the courage to be imperfect and the compassion to accept ourselves anyway. At Wekeela, as in life, there is no more powerful belonging than to each other.
That there are many ways to be a woman, that femininity can be misconstrued that you can empower them by embracing their independence, that expressing themselves is a strength.
That there are many ways to be a man, that masculinity can be toxic, that vulnerability is strength. Hopefully when our campers hear these ideas more often it will benefit them and make them feel like they truly belong.
Summer camps encapsulate the most amazing things about life; friendships, love, nature, freedom and tradition. Wekeela is rooted in the idea that as our society increases in speed and information availability, Wekeela will always be a place kids can go to escape from everything.
From our bunk to your we wish you a safe and fun 4th of July and a great rest of the summer!