December 7, 2010
By OliviaBernstein BRONZE, Beverly Hills, California
OliviaBernstein BRONZE, Beverly Hills, California
3 articles 0 photos 1 comment

Favorite Quote:
"Be the change you wish to see in the world"

“I’m not gonna do that! I don’t have to do that! Leave me alone!” screamed the eight-year-old camper. I know because this is what she screamed at me, her camp counselor at Camp Harmony. Jaycee is a young girl who lives in a foster care home in Los Angeles. Camp Harmony is a camp for underprivileged children. The camp is designed to give homeless or foster youth a chance to be kids for one week out of the summer.
My first summer as a counselor was rough. All the campers in my cabin had never been away from home before. They were angry, hungry and agitated. In the beginning my campers didn’t know how to let their safety net down. Which was understandably as that net is what protected them on the streets and in their home life. Jaycee was no different than all the other young campers. She yelled, demanded and acted absolutely inappropriately. But then again she was only modeling the adults in her world.
I wasn’t sure I’d survive navigating my campers through a week’s worth of meals and activities. Professional therapists told us during our training sessions said the days would be tough and the children challenging, but this was more than I had expected. Several campers gorged their food, didn’t know how to eat with utensils, fought incessantly, and this was almost more than I could handle as a 16 year old. The worst was when Jaycee shared with me that her foster mother was beating the two younger kids in her custody. I was disgusted, yet at the same time more determined to help Jaycee have a week away from the madness she experienced in her home life.
Despite my painful first week with Camp Harmony, I was drawn to the work performed and the program. When I returned from camp I became a mentor because I wanted to continue working with these kids.
The next summer I returned as a counselor and Jaycee was once again one of my campers. What a difference one year can make. Not only had I had more training on the long term effects of living in foster care that make up the population of the children that attend our camp, I learned that I could make a difference in the lives of these children. When I saw Jaycee my heart filled and I knew that we had both changed over the course of the year.
Jaycee was a different child then from the year before. She used her manners, abided by camp rules, didn’t fight with other campers; she understood that it was a privilege to be at camp and it was something she cared very much about. Jaycee was the inspiration for me continuing my work with Camp Harmony. A young girl with so little showed me how much I had.

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