Learning on the Fly Boosts our International Staff into Leadership Roles
By Edwin Cook
OZARK, IL: Throughout its history, Camp Ondessonk has proudly employed dozens of international staff members and the 2017 Camp season continues that trend. Camp Ondessonk is excited to host four international staff this summer: three working as unit leaders and one working in nature with general staff. Each applied through Camp America, a cultural exchange program providing the chance for international staff to spend a summer living and working at a summer camp in the U.S.
Gareth Campbell, 26, a native of Belfast, Ireland returns for his third summer as a unit leader. Rising to the rank of Lieutenant, Campbell excels in his position and takes great initiative in leadership around Camp. He soars above and beyond the details of his position by providing positive guidance to not only campers but also to younger staff members. Campbell leads units Daniel and Amantacha this summer.
Angus Robertson, a first time unit leader is new to Camp and hails from North Adelaide, Australia. The 25 year-old faces the Camp experience head-on, and looks forward to leading by example for the rest of the summer. Graduating with a degree in exercise physiology from the University of South Australia, Robertson is proficient in physical health and fitness. He has led the Brebeuf unit each session so far this summer.
Valkiria Perez, 25, also a first time unit leader, has grown tremendously since coming to camp. From Santa Cruz, Bolivia, she is the only staff member whose first language is not English. Perez explains she initially encountered difficulties without a translator. She credits much to the general staff for being patient and understanding with her at first regarding communication. While leading unit LaLande each of the first three sessions, Perez explains her favorite parts about Camp. “My girls have reminded me how to be a kid again and that being [unit leader] lets me bond with them more than most of my staff. Most of the time I think I learn more from them than the opposite.”
Christy Crawford, 20, is the youngest of our international staff, working in nature. Similar to Robertson and Perez, this is his first time in the U.S.; coming from Liverpool, England. Crawford has grown increasingly more confident in himself and his decision to work at Camp. He explains, “Camp Ondessonk has improved my confidence and sharpened my skills in working with kids.” As a part of the nature staff, Crawford has been able to use his experiences to broaden his knowledge of the outdoors and as a counselor. He tells us, “Nature to me, is one of the most rewarding parts of Camp because you see kids achieve things they didn’t think possible, such as fire building and climbing through split rocks.”
Our weekly theme for session 2 was International Week. In honor of our foreign staff members, we flew the Irish, Bolivian, British, and Australian flags alongside “Old Glory” [American Flag] throughout the days and during inspections.
[From left to right] Gareth Campbell, Angus Robertson, Valkiria Perez, Christy Crawford