Heepwah in China
I wanted to share with you, and anyone else that might be interested, my camp experience. I am a veteran, and Lodge inductee of Camp Ondessonk. I was a camper for two years, a CIT, and ultimately a counselor. It was my very first job I had in my life. Camp Ondessonk impacted my life so much that my career has been devoted to working with youth in camps, special events and recreation. In fact, my master’s degree is in Recreation, Parks, and Tourism.
But, that is only part of how Camp Ondessonk has played a role in my life. I am now living and working in China. I have been here for over a year. I am an English teacher. As such, part of my job is to be a camp teacher during the summer. Well, it is actually summer school, with a light camp element to it. But, nevertheless, I am teaching the kids here in China.
Last summer, I had over 150 Chinese youths. One of my first lessons was to show them the Camp Ondessonk video you have on YouTube. They were fascinated about what camp could be like in America. All the wonderful things you get do and the fun that the kids had in the video was wonderful. But, the best part of the Camp Ondessonk experience was HEEPWAH!!!! I taught them how to say it. What it means to their life. And, the impact it has on people. I did an entire lesson plan surrounding camp and Heepwah.
As we would go around camp during the month, I would shout out “Heepwah” three times and the kids would scream it back. Pretty soon, the kids would begin to do it on their own. We were standing in line waiting for our tickets to enter the Forbidden City. We did the Heepwah yell there. My camp boss came over to me and said not to do that as it might seem we are inciting a riot…HA HA. Seriously though, we did it right next to the military outpost with soldiers standing there. It was quite amusing to me. We shouted Heepwah when we were at the Great Wall too.
Now, with any camp I have been at, the camp excitement dies away after some time. Sure, the memories and the life lessons stay with you. But, many things get forgotten, like bug juice, mosquito filled nights, and even some friendships you had made. But, I am happy to say that Heepwah has remained with many of the kids here in China. I had the opportunity to go teach for a week at a different school. It has been a year since the summer camp. Some of the students in the classes were from the camp. I walked into the class. The camp kids recognized me and greeted me with “Heepwah”. Totally spontaneous. When word had gotten out that I was on the school campus, many of the other camp kids came and met me. I had just finished my class and walked into the hall. There were about a dozen of my kids there and they greeted me with Heepwah.
I am about to begin another summer camp here in Beijing. And, I can tell you that Heepwah will be our chant this year too. I tell you these things, not just to be nostalgic, or to have it as an oddity message to you. I wanted to let you know that Camp Ondessonk makes a difference in ways you may never be aware of. But, then again, maybe you do know this. It has been over 30 years since I shouted my first Heepwah. But, I can tell you Heepwah today and assure you that everything is good.
Don’t tell God how big the storm is…tell the storm how big God is.
FB: Bill Gain
Location: Ganyu, Jiangsu Province, China
Heepwah in China By Bill Gain- Former Camper and Counselor at Camp Ondessonk.