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Published: June 15th 2008
Challenges make you discover things about yourself that you never really knew. They're what make the instrument stretch-what make you go beyond the norm.
I realized that I haven’t written about my experience at all since I’ve been here in Salt Lake, so here is a somewhat long blog entry catching you up…
To start off I just want to make sure everybody is on the same page and knows what my 4th project is. We are working at a summer camp, Camp Kostopulos or Camp K for short. Camp K is a week long summer camp for people with disabilities. We just finished our second week of camp, with campers there. Our first week was for adults with mental disabilities and last week was teens with mental disabilities. I would just like to state that this is the most difficult job/thing that I have ever had to do in my life. At first I was unsure of why it’s so hard and after being in AmeriCorps for 8 months I used all of my self reflection skills that they have been pushing on me and came to the conclusion that there are a couple reasons why this job is so challenging.
For me, the number one reason is because Monday through Friday I don’t have any free time to myself, and that sounds really selfish but it is a great challenge. Our day starts at 7am when we, the counselors, wake up. We have to be at the camper cabins at 7:15am to get them up and ready for the day, and we then proceed to spend the whole day with them until we put them to sleep. In theory bed time is at 9pm, but can take up to an hour and a half to get them settled in bed and asleep and most nights we don’t finish “work” until after 10pm. At that point we are so burnt out that the rest of our night consists of 2 options: go directly to sleep (which even though we are exhausted it can be hard to go directly from work to sleep without taking time to wind down) or take a shower, wind down a little and then go to sleep. Sleep usually doesn’t happen until after 11pm. Showers are another difficult part of the job as sometimes we don’t get showers everyday, and we stink, and it’s gross… We wake up the next morning and do it all over again. On top of that, once a week we are assigned to “Cabin Duty” which means that we spend the night “on call” in the cabins with the campers taking care of them and any incidents which might occur during the night, needless to say you don’t get much sleep the night you are on cabin duty.
Aside from not having any free time, it is a very high energy job. We are assigned into groups. Each group has between 6-8 counselors, (3 being AmeriCorps) and about 12 campers. Not only do we participate in all of the activities on a daily basis with the campers: swimming, canoing, fishing, ropes course, camp out, hikes, etc. we also have to entertain them and constantly give them our attention, which they rightfully deserve, but that doesn’t make it easy. It is hard to find energy towards the end of the days and week, and patience runs thin by the end of the week as well. Some campers are unable to take care of themselves so we often feed, bathe and change them as well.
I don’t know if I could or would willingly sign up for this job. But it has given me a great appreciation for the counselors and people all over who do this as a choice. I joined AmeriCorps to do things that I normally wouldn’t do and experience things that I normally wouldn’t have the chance to experience and this job has given me that opportunity.
Needless to say, I enjoy our weekends off. The campers go home on Friday mornings and we get out of work around 2:30pm on Friday. I was so excited this Friday and had so much “free time” that I willingly went for a run down the canyon to run off some energy. I also have a better appreciation for weekends after putting in a long hard week of work.
Although the job is extremely challenging it is also very rewarding, and on Fridays when the campers are leaving you realize all of the fun that they had during the week, and all of the fun that they had during the week at camp might be all of the fun that they have during the summer or maybe all year... and it makes you realize that your hard work is not in vain. And that all of the hours that you spend with them helping them, playing with them, paying attention to them, loving them, or just sitting there with them might mean more to them than we will ever know. Some of the campers don’t talk, some of them don’t walk, some cant see, some cant hear, none of them are capable of taking care of themselves completely and it makes me so grateful, and appreciative, and brings tears to my eyes when I think about it, and think about how blessed I am that I can do all of that on my own.
We were told at a staff meeting on Friday that the first two weeks were the hardest and as the summer goes on things should be getting easier. I hope that is true. I am just excited because Sandra is coming to Salt Lake City for her 4th phase project. It is completely random and so unexpected that out of the whole country there are 2 teams that are going to be in Salt Lake City and one is mine and the other is hers. God has a great sense of humor. I am not sure if our work schedules will line up or that I will be able to visit with her on a regular basis, but I am still super excited and still mind boggled that her team is coming to SLC.
Salt Lake City itself is a wonderful city. Our camp is right outside the city and it takes us maybe 10-20 minutes depending on traffic to come into the city. We spend our weekends here. They have a lot of different cultural festivals that go on and they are usually free to get into, something that Buffalo lacks. The library here is amazing as well. I am not too fond of libraries but their city library is a really nice 4 story building with shops and cafes and it has free wi-fi. The city itself is the perfect size; not huge but big enough to have things to do here, it is a nice change. It is very clean and easy to get around in as well. A couple of my teammates love it so much here that they have decided to move back once AmeriCorps is done with. I randomly bumped into 2 guys from Buffalo the first weekend I was here. They saw the sabers cap that I was wearing and they stopped me and asked if I was from Buffalo. To make a long story short they are from Buffalo, and moved out here 2 years ago to go to school, I have gotten together with them a couple times to hang out and they have showed me some cool things to do here. The weather is finally getting nice. It is supposed to be in the 90’s all next week which will be a nice change from 60’s and rain that we have had the past 2 weeks.
We only have 5 weeks left of our last project and I am getting sad about the end. I still have no idea what my plans will be for life after AmeriCorps, but hopefully can get them figured out sometime soon. Please continue to pray for patience for me as that is what I need most these days. I look forward to seeing you all soon!
PS. Happy Father's day Pops!
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