After many weeks of being unable to make any ASB posts, I have finally gained access!…Just in time to write a post-trip blog post…

Well, better late than never. I’ve described this trip as the most simultaneously rewarding and frustrating experience of my entire life, and, one week later, that’s still how I perceive it.

We experienced a good deal of difficulty, for sure, more than we expected. I personally expected there to be difficulties being patient with the individuals with retardation, but I did not anticipate struggles with the administration, or organizational issues for that matter. We arrived at Camp Baker only to find out that the woman who had initially invited us to Camp Baker was no longer with the company–therefore, the structure of the week was turned topsy-turvy.

We had no idea what to expect going in. Our first day, we were told basically to keep the kids occupied for a couple hours, with no other instructions. As such, we would try and do whatever the kids wanted to do, which mainly meant keeping them company as they wandered around the camp. Unfortunately, it became apparent on the Tuesday of the trip through a meeting with the new administrator, Emily, that this would not fly. The staff were irritated that we would take the kids here and there, often taking them out of eyesight of the staffers.

We had no idea this was an issue, and to be chastised for ignorance of the law was grating to many individuals. Later attempts to co-ordinate with the staffers were met with indignation from Emily, scolding us for going “over her head”, and stating that we were “lucky to be allowed to come after [the previous administrator left]”. It was nothing short of infuriating listening to this woman claim that we were the source of these problems, when our attempts to contribute more to the volunteer effort were treated as an annoyance.

However, the actual interactions with the campers was remarkable. Working hard each and every day to get smiles on their faces was a struggle in some cases, but ultimately rewarding as all hell. We had many strong individual bonds with many campers…I personally became very close with individuals named Buddy, Jamil, Ritchie, and Kimberly. Working with them each and every day was something I looked forward to immensely.

Plus, I got to sign autographs as a “real-life leprechaun” for our St. Patrick’s Day carnival.

I have to hand it to the staffers working at the camp every day. While it was amazing working with the individuals, it was very frustrating in some cases. As I learned through many encounters as well as watching the staffers, coddling those individuals was usually not the best way. Like any kid, a stern hand (and voice) is usually the best way to get them to obey, and that’s what I discovered working with these individuals. It changed a lot of perceptions.

One last thing that I will conclude with is the extraordinary ability of these individuals to still express feelings like joy and love. It was apparent that despite having disabilities, each an every individual was still capable of experiencing those things. I always wondered what the point of allowing individuals to live in a handicapped state was…being fully capable of my own abilities, I can’t imagine being forced to live in a body which restricted my thoughts and movements. But isn’t the point of life experiencing those amazing emotions? Isn’t that in and of itself justification to live? This trip certainly settled one moral dilemma that I struggled with in the past.