The Importance of the J1 Visa: To Camps, To America & To The World

Earlier this week Camp Friendship staff, along with summer camp staff everywhere, received an email which struck very close to us all. The email was in regards to the J1 work visa, specifically the Summer Work Travel (SWT) Program and the recent discussions to potentially cancel this program as a result of the Buy American, Hire American Executive Order signed by the President in April of this year.

For those of you who know Camp Friendship, you will know that we welcome staff from all over the world to enhance our program. In fact, Camp Friendship was founded on the notion of bringing children together from all over the world and providing them a safe space to gather in peace. Our international staff only strengthen this mission with the experiences they bring to share with our campers. Everyday we learn from one another and that is what makes us great. We proudly thrive on diversity of all kinds.

For those of you who don’t know Camp Friendship but know the camping industry, you will know the profound effect of international staff members.

Welcoming staff from around the world doesn’t take away opportunities from American staff, but rather helps with a shortage of seasonal staff and in the process opens up opportunities to all involved. To borrow from the language of the American Camp Association’s letter in support of the SWT program, “there is a shortage of available qualified seasonal workers in America, especially in rural areas like where most camps are located. Camps everywhere must compete with local businesses, internships, and summer educational programs in order to find staff willing to work during the short camp season.” Two thirds of overnight camps hire international staff, making up 10.9% of their staff, a percentage that increases to 19.7% for non-profit independent camps.

Beyond being essential to the operation of Camp Friendship and many other camps like ours, international staff give young people the chance to learn hands-on about different cultures. Research shows that youth camps improve developmental and academic outcomes, promote wellness and provide valuable employment experiences. The greatest economic impact of youth camps (besides almost $3.2 billion of which $1.1 billion is paid in local, state and federal income tax) may be their contribution to the development of human capital… development that is improved by international staff.

For me, the idea of losing the J1 program is hard to come to terms with on a personal level as I am a young person who has greatly benefited from the program. The first question I asked myself when I heard the news was, where would I be today without the J1 visa? The second… Who would I be today without the J1 visa? I can honestly say, without a doubt, I would not be the same person. I am who I am because of the experiences the J1 visa gave me, the people it allowed me to meet and the fears it helped me to overcome.

I am now fortunate enough to be working full-time at Camp Friendship on an extended J1 visa. This summer was the first time I was involved in the hiring of our brilliant staff members and I’ve been able to see first-hand the impact that working at a summer camp has on all our staff. I saw the transition from their first interview until their final day at camp, not just with our international staff but also our American staff. I saw friendships formed. I overheard conversations (and debates) on every topic under the sun: food, sport teams, school systems, the differences in how they would spend their free time and everything in between. I heard travel plans being made and watched international communities grow. To think of these opportunities being taken away from campers and staff alike is heartbreaking.

This summer, I also saw first-hand the impact of this particular international exchange program on our campers. Each and every year I see thousands of young people experience the magic of summer camp and grow, but this year I definitely noticed how much of an impact our international presence had, on our American and international children.

I noticed our campers really engaging and wanting to learn more about different cultures. I watched as staff would take the time to help campers understand why differences make us special and why they should be celebrated. I got to see (in the short space of 1 week) a camper’s ambitions change and their outlook on life develop. Campers developed a desire to travel the world to meet up with camp friends, to learn more, and to grow. This summer at Camp Friendship it didn’t at all matter where you were from, and it mattered immensely at the same time.

How YOU can help

As a part of our camp and global community, we ask you to join us in support of this cause:

Share. Share your stories of the positive impact our international staff have made, whether you were an international staff member yourself or whether you simply idolized your international counselors as a camper.

Write. Write to your representatives. The American Camp Association has pre-written a letter that is easy to sign electronically and send.

Call. Call your representatives, tell them how much you value the SWT Program and share your personal positive experiences that you wouldn’t have had if this program didn’t exist.

The legacy we leave with our campers and young people is what truly matters. Opening them up to the world and teaching them love, diversity and understanding matters. At Camp Friendship we will always strive to do what matters. We will always put your child first and do what is best for them, which is why we’re fighting this fight and we’re fighting it hard.

The Week So Far… Session 7A!

It’s Week 7 here at Camp Friendship in Virginia, and it’s been nothing but fun, friendships and WAR… SV Wars to be precise! This week our Senior Villages have declared war and are out to win in the epic battles of SV WARS. SV Wars is a brand new Village Time activity here at camp where campers and counselors compete in various activities throughout the week – there have been dance offs, ping pong tournaments, fashion shows, volleyball challenges and so much more! Be sure to follow our Camp Friendship Facebook and Instagram pages to find out whether SV1 or SV2 are victorious at the end of the week.

Taking it back a day or two to Sunday, we started Week 7 in the same way we start every week at Camp Friendship, with our Opening Campfire on Sunday night. This campfire is a time for new friends to come together beneath the stars and get to know each other a little better. It’s also a time where we watch our counselors make complete fools of themselves up on stage, and we love every minute!

After an early start on Monday, there was much excitement as everyone received their activity schedules and prepared to try their activities for the first time! Instead of regular dinner in the Dining Hall, our campers and counselors ate outdoors in a camp-wide cookout that was great fun!

After a full day of activities on Tuesday, it was time to cool off with a few camp favorites for evening activity: Slip ‘n Slide for Juniors and a highly competitive round of Pool Olympics for Seniors.

On Wednesday we received some much needed rain which gave us all some time to rest and recover from the high-energy activities we’ve been doing all week.

Rest time didn’t last long though as it was soon time to head Under the Sea for our camp-wide dance. It’s always great fun to see how our campers interpret the dance theme, and this week we had sharks, crabs, fishermen, squid and a whole crew of Spongebob Squarepants characters that made everyone giggle. Needless to say we had a whale of a time!

As we near the end of our week, we still have big plans for camp fun with our camp friends. Thursday‘s evening activities are some camp classics: Pool Party for Juniors and Powder Fairies for Seniors. Our Equestrian Campers will spend the evening preparing themselves and their horses for the big day on Friday: Horse Show Day! At the end of every 2-week Equestrian Camp session, the girls get the chance to perform the skills they’ve learned at camp to their families and friends, and of course their counselors swell with pride at seeing how far each rider has come in just 2 short weeks.

Be sure to look out for photos of your camper on CampInTouch over the weekend, and there’ll be a special Week 7 Wrap Up video to watch on our YouTube channel.

Writing Letters to your Camper: Tips Every Parent Should Read!

We know how hard it can be to send your child away to camp for weeks at a time and not be able to call or message them as often as you’d like. Although Camp Friendship is a technology-free camp, we also highly value communication and try to help you stay in touch with your camper as often as possible. We have our special e-letter system in place for just this reason, and we even set aside time during each busy camp day for campers to write home.

Some parents like to pre-write a number of letters to be delivered during their child’s stay at camp. If you’d like to do this, please date each letter and mail them ahead of time or drop them with us on Check-In Day. For ideas, check out 5 Letters to Write to Your Kids and our 5 tips below:

  1. Keep your letters upbeat. It’s important for campers to receive encouraging letters focused on the positive experience of camp rather than what they may be missing out on at home.
  2. Ask lots of specific questions. What is your favorite activity so far and why? What do you do in the evenings? What countries are your counselors from and have you learned anything new about that country?
  3. Give them updates about things that interest them. If their favorite sports team has played recently, give them the scores and updates, or if they’re interested in a particular celebrity, TV show or competition you could update them on these too. Not only does this show your camper that you value what interests them, but it will help them to feel connected to something familiar without bringing about homesickness.
  4. Send campers your love, not your anxiety. Try not to constantly talk about how much you miss them – rather express how much you care and how you can’t wait to hear all about the fun they’ve had at camp.
  5. Get creative and fun! Unique letters from a pet, secret coded letters or puzzle-type letters that need to be solved are always a hit here at camp! You’ll find some great ideas here  and also here.

What to do if your child gets homesick:

Research shows that around 90% of campers will experience some level of homesickness at least once during the summer. Please know that homesickness is definitely the norm rather than the exception, and let your child know that it’s completely OK to miss home and the things that are familiar to them.

At Camp Friendship, our staff are well-trained to deal with all levels of homesickness and with this being our 51st summer we have a good idea of what works to encourage campers to make the most of their camp experience. Our goal is for every camper to have a successful summer where they gain independence, increase their self-confidence and form connections with others. Parents can help by preparing themselves and their camper for the summer in a way that might prevent homesickness. Read more here.

Tips for what to say in a letter to a homesick camper: 

  • Empathize with them, but let them know that you’re proud of them for taking the big step to come to camp.
  • Reassure them that it’s OK to miss home, everyone does at some point, and being in a new environment can make anyone anxious.
  • Relate to them. You could share personal experiences of a time when you yourself felt homesick or if your camper has an older sibling or family member that successfully overcame homesickness you could share what helped them.
  • Focus on the positive. By the time you receive a homesick letter, your camper is likely to have bounced back and started to enjoy themselves again, so it’s important that your letter doesn’t hinder any progress they may already have made. Concentrating your letter on any exciting news your camper has already shared is a sure-fire way to remind them that camp is a fantastic experience.
  • Make them smile. Write them a few jokes or other creative letters to make them smile if they happen to experience another moment or two where they miss home.
  • Don’t suggest they quit. One of the hardest things for parents not to say is ‘if you don’t like it you can just come home’. While many parents think this will reassure their child, it often does much more harm than good. Of course in severe cases of homesickness this is a decision you would come to over multiple talks and updates from your camper’s Village Supervisor or a Camp Director, however sending your child to camp with the knowledge that they can pull the plug at any time can set them up to have an unsuccessful summer.

Please know that while homesickness is common at all sleepaway camps and across all ages, it doesn’t last long. We’ve had years of supporting our campers through their initial adjustment periods and we know that your brilliantly written letters will help to put a smile on their faces when they need it the most! We believe that it takes a village to raise a child, and we look forward to being an active partner in your child’s journey of wonder and self-discovery.

Why Camp Is a Multi-Year Experience

As active leaders in the camping industry, we know that Camp Gives Kids a World of Good. We’ve seen the studies and statistics and know that summer camp – regardless of which one you pick – can be a positive and impactful experience for any child. But is one time at summer camp enough?

We believe camp is a multi-year experience. Unlike many other long-running sleepaway camps on the east coast which offer 4 or 7 week options, Camp Friendship offers short 1 and 2-week sessions which can be combined to stay multiple weeks. We know that many first-time parents consider their first summer a ‘trial run’, and we also know how important it is for both campers and parents to feel ready for an overnight camp experience (even though at the end of the week, many first-time campers beg to be allowed to stay longer!).

Here’s 5 reasons we know that camp is best when experienced over multiple years:

1. Strengthen connections. Camp gives kids the chance to connect with others face-to-face. Campers stay friends with each other throughout the year and strengthen those existing connections at camp the following summer. Better yet, they continue to expand their circle of friends each year and, at Camp Friendship, they have the added benefit of being exposed to a global village with people who come from all over the world.

2. Practice emotional intelligence. As they get older, children need to practice the self-management of their emotions. Camp is the ideal setting to practice this as counselors serve as excellent yet subtle role models. Children expect to be told what to do and how to be by their parents… they don’t expect to be shaped by their counselors who can give them friendly advice from the vantage point of a friend who cares.

3. Guaranteed growth and progression. Not only is there the activity progression that follows the notion that ‘practice makes perfect’ in any sport or activity, but multiple years at camp offers social growth and development. It also allows campers to increase their independence from year to year. The first time at an overnight camp makes a big impact in the life of our campers, but each subsequent camp experience adds to and enhances the next.

4. Take a break from technology. We hear it every day – the ever-increasing impact of technology on humanity, and specifically children. Every year, as campers get older and become more dependent on technology, having a time set aside when they can be technology-free is a great way to help them become well-adjusted individuals.

5. Remove outside pressures that increase with age. Camp Friendship is a place to be YOU, allowing campers to join a welcoming community where they don’t need to pretend to be someone they’re not. Every aspect of camp creates a nurturing, inclusive environment where campers are encouraged to be themselves. Everyone is equal, everyone is supported, and everyone matters. The pressures from school, siblings and peers are removed, and, as parents, having these pressures removed for a period of time every year is especially appealing.

Riding A Horse Can Be Good For Your Health

If you haven’t yet had the pleasure of riding a horse, then consider this-
Aside from the immense enjoyment, riding a horse can be good for your health!
Riding a horse is good for you physically.
To keep fit: Riding allows you to spend some time outdoors in the fresh air. When you ride a horse, balance is developed. Coordination and motor function is improved. Muscles you didn’t know you had are being strengthened. Riding a horse improves your reflexes, increases joint mobility, increases blood flow and gives your cardiovascular system a boost. Calories are burned while riding a horse. When

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riding a horse you can experience improved visual perception of space and stimulation of your senses.

Riding a horse is good for you mentally.
To decompress: Being outdoors is good for your mind. Not far into your ride you’ll notice time will slow down a little while you have the chance to connect with nature. Making your way down the trail, you’ll feel more relaxed, gently easing away from the distractions and the stress of everyday living. A horse is a big and beautiful animal. It can be a quiet friend and companion while you take a break from your normal day to day routine.

To exercise your mind: Learning to ride is a challenge, but becomes easier and more fun over time. The most experienced rider can tell you riding a horse is a continual process of new learning opportunities. Continual learning exercises your mind, helps to keep you sharp, focused and feel young.
To build self esteem and confidence: Learning to control, and interact with such a large animal, can really boost your confidence. You’ll feel a sense of accomplishment as you succeed in mastering various riding skills and techniques. When you progress in your riding skills enough to go a little faster, there is no comparable feeling to the exhilaration and sense of freedom of the wind through your hair, or hearing the sound of hoofs and the breathing of a horse while your heart races with delight. Getting to share in the camaraderie, of others who love horses and riding, is a great way to build lasting friendships and well…have fun and feel good about yourself!
Riding a horse is fun, and can benefit your child and/or you more than you can imagine. Camp Friendship offers horseback riding weekends for girls each year in the spring and fall. Riding weekends are a great experience for prospective campers, and a fun time for returning campers who just can’t wait for the next summer camp! Camp Friendship also offers mother/daughter horseback riding weekends. Call to find out more about our horseback riding opportunities. Please contact Skye, our Equestrian Director with any questions at (434) 589-3878 or stables@campfriendship.com. Riding a horse is not just fun. It can be good for your health!
Join us for our
FALL FAMILY FUN DAY
October 18th from 11 am – 2 pm
– – – – – – – –
Come to our
FALL CAMP WEEKEND
for ages 7-16
October 31st – November 2nd $200 per camper
Check out our Events page or call 1-800-873-3223 for more info.

What a Summer!

session8a92The past eight weeks have positively flown by, but there is no denying it- this is the last week of summer 2016. Although we are nearly done, there is still fun to be had this week at Camp Friendship.

Last Friday, everyone participated in our second Color Wars of the summer. The Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows theme meant that the teams were the Elder Wand, Resurrection Stone and Invisibility Cloak. The Elder Wand, captained by SV1’s Claude Kirton and JG’s Antonia Lanaras, wore green all day. Meanwhile, the Resurrection Stone team was led by JB’s David Ross and JG’s Amy Pedlow and favored white. The day included a surprise for me, as I was one of the captains of the Invisibility Cloak team along with JB’s Daniel Hajdar. Our team sported purple throughout the day.

session8a97The day was full of fun competition, even with on-and-off rain throughout the morning and early afternoon. In the morning, campers played dodgeball and volleyball, competed in lake events and worked on the songs, dances and floats for their teams. They earned more points for their teams during silent lunch, with groups of campers and counselors performing silent dances and skits to entertain the supervisors. In the afternoon, it was time for the House Cup relay race. The race ended at the edge of lower fields when the team captains built a fire to snap a rope suspended off the ground. Following the relay race, the teams met at their headquarters so that everyone could learn the songs and dances. After a break for dinner, it was time to head to the drama theater to show off the songs, dances and floats.

session8a98After performances in the theater, everyone headed to Campfire. After acts from various activities and campers, it was time for the big reveal. The captains were called down onstage and the supervisors revealed a Sorting Hat. The Sorting Hat announced that, after a day of fierce competition, the Invisibility Cloak team had won!

There is a lot more to look forward to this week. In addition to the production Beauty and the Beast being staged on Thursday, we have an Olympics-themed dance and the final closing Campfire of the summer coming up.

A Little Competition This Week at Summer Camp


session8a97
Competition is in the air here at Camp Friendship this week! Last night, Friendship FC squared up against Triple C in a good-natured soccer friendly at lower fields. Tomorrow, we will have our second Color Wars of the summer.

The soccer game was an enjoyable night for everyone! The counselors who played for the team ran out to the song “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” earning cheers from campers and other staff members. session8a95While the game raged on, campers enjoyed burgers and dogs and rooted for their counselors to defeat Triple C. Although in the end Friendship FC was unsuccessful, it was a competitive matchup. Sports supervisor and team captain Antony Shinks scored a goal for Friendship FC, heading it into the net off of a corner kick. At halftime, a music mashup was played and campers danced around, keeping the energy up for the team.

session8a98We may be done with the soccer game, but we certainly aren’t done with exciting events this week! Many of the counselors and campers have been very excited about last weekend’s release of the script of J.K. Rowling’s play, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. This excitement exploded earlier today, when the theme for tomorrow’s Color Wars was revealed. As everyone filed into the dining hall for breakfast this morning, they were surprised with Harry Potter themed decorations. Meanwhile, supervisors were dressed as witches and wizards, complete with their own wands.

Tonight’s 90s-themed dance is sure to hold more surprises about tomorrow. Stay tuned for more information about Color Wars and closing campfire in the next blog!

Wild West and Charlie Make an Appearance at Summer Camp

session6a-295Another week has come to an end, and we are still having a great time at Camp Friendship! After the excitement of Camplified earlier this week, the past few days have been nice and relaxing. On Wednesday, the seniors enjoyed a movie night for evening activity, while the juniors had a pool party. The activities offered the perfect way to unwind after a busy time at camp.

session6a-296It has certainly been busy! Campers in activities like drama workshop, dance and school of music have been preparing all week to perform at closing Campfire tonight. In drama workshop, campers learn some of the fundamentals of drama and acting, play improvisation games and rehearse a skit to perform for everyone else. In dance, campers learn a choreographed dance routine throughout the week. Set to popular current songs, the dances are always a hit at Campfire. Finally, in school of music, campers get to choose a song or selection of songs to sing at Campfire. With all of the preparation going into the acts, they are sure to be showstoppers tonight!

Meanwhile, some of the counselors have been hard at work practicing for the soccer game against our rival camp later in the summer. Sports supervisor Antony Shinks, acting as team captain, has been coordinating the practices and preparing for the game. The contest is only a few short weeks away.

session6a-294Last night we enjoyed the Wild West-themed dance. Riding Camp decorated the gym to perfection, including saloon doors at the entrance and hay bales scattered around. Although almost everyone dressed in cowboy or Western outfits, there were a few outliers- such as a wild Kanye West and a wild Adam West! The dance was a hit, as everyone enjoyed songs like the Cotton Eyed Joe.

Though it’s already Friday, we still have a lot of activity left in the week! After dinner, everyone will head down to the theater to watch Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Following the play, we will see more performances at Campfire. After the performances are over, everyone will join in a couple rousing renditions of the Friendship song. At the end of Campfire, supervisors will sing everyone off to their villages with “This Little Light of Mine,” the perfect way to end another perfect week at camp!

Annabel

Games, Music, and Friends at Summer Camp

session6a93The past few days have flown by, so it’s hard to believe that we are already halfway done with Week 6 at Camp Friendship! Our campers have been very busy with all sorts of activities as well as yesterday’s big event, Camplified.

Throughout the summer, various musicians join Camplified and tour at camps across the country. Yesterday was Camp Friendship’s turn to welcome the talented musicians. The event proved to be a big hit with campers, who enjoyed the music, freebies and meet-and-greet. In the afternoon, campers were able to participate in Camplified activities. The juniors loved the record-painting station, where they were able to choose an old record and decorate it as they wished. Other activities included Frisbee, sound-mixing, dancing and a photo-booth. When campers got tired, they could relax in blow-up chairs with a free bottle of Hint water.

session6a96After dinner, the entire camp headed up to the gym for a concert. With music from Jagged Row, Pom Oak, Tyson and DJ Kiss, everyone enjoyed the night. In addition to original music, the bands played current hits like Shake it Off and Stitches. Campers and counselors demonstrated their own talent to the Camplified visitors by showing them the classic Everytime We Touch dance.

Following the concert, there was a short meet-and-greet opportunity. The musicians signed posters and papers and even posed for photos with the campers. It was a great way to end a fun day full of music and activities!

session6a99The week is not over quite yet, though. With the Wild Wild West themed dance and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory coming up, there is more to enjoy coming up at camp.

Anabelle – former camper, former cit, current counselor

A Bit of History at Camp This Week!

Tsession5a95he past few days at Camp Friendship have seen scorching hot temperatures as well as thunderstorms. We have not let the weather get in the way of enjoying another week at camp, though! Campers and staff alike have participated in activities and prepared for upcoming events. 

Our French campers and staff were able to celebrate the French national holiday of Bastille Day this morning at flag. After explaining the significance of the day, they sang the French national anthem, La Marseillaise, for everyone. 

session5a93For the past two weeks, riding camp has been hard at work preparing for their horse show. Campers have the opportunity to ride in front of judges, win ribbons and show the audience the skills they have learned at camp. All the hard work is definitely worth it when campers can show off their talent and win ribbons!

Meanwhile, the drama production class is gearing up for next week’s play. The production, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, is directed by performing arts supervisor Cody Payne with Junior Girls counselor Kerry Lester serving as assistant director. Over the course of this week, campers auditioned for roles and began memorizing their lines as well as practicing onstage. Rehearsals will continue next week until the production is staged on Friday evening. With plenty of campers excited to bring the story to Friendship Stage, the play is sure to be a hit!

session5a96During the hot summer days, our campers love to visit the snack bar, where they can order ice cream and cold drinks to cool off. The snack bar staff- April Moore, Michael Calvelli and Sophia Barsanti- work hard every day to make sure each camper can enjoy their preferred snack and beverage. One of the most popular snacks at camp is the classic Chipwich, which consists of vanilla ice cream sandwiched between two chocolate chip cookies. 

Our 50th anniversary celebrations continued on Wednesday when camp welcomed special visitors to film a segment for the local news. Several staff members and campers as well as the founder, Chuck Ackenbom, were interviewed about their experiences here. The segment aired Wednesday night on Newsplex in Charlottesville. 

As Week 5 winds to a close, we are already looking forward to the coming weeks! With Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and other special surprises happening next week, the fun is sure to continue at camp. 

Anabelle
(Camper, CIT, Counselor)