I started my work at summer camps at the age of 14. My very first part-time summer job was scrubbing pots at a girls private camp up the road from my home. Although I didn’t ever get to work with the children, just hanging out in the kitchen with the other young women staff gave me a sense of connection and community. The next few summers though took me down another road. One which was exciting, but also had me living on the edge as my addiction to alcohol and substances was just surfacing.
Although unaware of some of my risky activities, my Mom was still concerned and spoke with my high school guidance counselor. She pulled me out of a job situation in which I was working in the harness racing arena with a pretty tough crowd of people. I was not only unhappy to leave this exciting lifestyle – but I was devastated to find out they found a job for me as a lowly “stable-hand” at a girls scout camp at less then half the pay!
What happened next, changed my life. I found that I loved being a part of the camp. I felt a sort of safety and connection being in an “all girls” setting, and once again I felt part of a community. I began making friendships and connections that have lasted my lifetime and I began to have feelings of being “good enough” as a person. Although it was not the end of my problems with addiction, it gave me something to strive for. Something I didn’t want to lose.
This past Fall, when Maria Klemperer-Johnson approached me about putting together a carpentry camp for teen girls at Camp Earth Connection, my past memories came back; I remembered how much I struggled in my teen years; I remembered the comfort and safety I felt being part of a all girls camp community; and I also remembered how empowering it was to do activities that were considered “boy things” and not be intimidated by the guys around me. Maria and I designed a camp so girls would do Carpentry in the mornings and Healthy Living Activities such as Yoga, Meditation, and Healthy Cooking in the afternoon.
On Friday, July 17th I witnessed thirteen young women between the ages of 10 and 16 – who stood proudly by two picnic tables that they had built under the instruction and guidance of Maria’s Hammerstone Carpentry School for Women. Later that afternoon when I asked them to share about what they enjoyed during the week – it meant so much to me to hear how happy they were both getting to learn Carpentry and the other activities, but also how much they enjoyed making new friendships with each other. We had an amazingly diverse group of girls with great personalities. With the support of the staff and counselors and one another as they faced both group challenges their own individual challenges as they arose.
It’s funny in life, how “one choice” or “one action” or “one experience” can change the direction of our entire life.
Thanks Mom for giving me the chance to change directions! Thanks Staff -Maria, Frida and Liz;! And Thanks to all the super young women who joined us for the first Carpentry and Healthy Living Camp for Teen Girls.
Also a special thanks to donations made to “A Quilt of Dreams” which provided partial and full scholarships to five families to send their daughters to Carpentry and Healthy Living Camp. I am hopeful that the “Quilt of Dreams” fundraising campaign will be able to reach it’s goal of $5,000 dollars so that we can provide more scholarships to children to participate in Village Camp and Project RISE.
With Peace and Gratitude
The Camp Director