From July 21-31, sophomore Gabi Alvarado was a counselor at Quaker Camp, a camp for kids in fourth to sixth grade located in the mountains outside of Ben Lomond, California.
Q: When did you arrive at the camp?
A: The actual camp is eight days long, but staff and counselors get there three days before for staff training. This year we got there on Thursday night for dinner, and then we just hung out in the lodge and played games. It was pretty low-key.
Overall, it’s more of a bonding experience for the staffers.
The next day we had a late breakfast and just chilled. We took a grounds hike to see where everything was and went over safety procedures. We had a first-aid talk. Most of the things we talked about actually (ended up happening) to the campers.
Q: Like what?
A: I was personally in charge of three campers, and one of them got a bloody nose while we were in the middle of the lake. I was freaking out because he was leaning his head back (which is dangerous), but we were able to keep it under control.
Q: Do any other camps take place there?
A: There’s the little kid camp called Quaker Camp – the one that I was a counselor at. There were 13 kids in it this year.
There’s also a camp for kids from seventh to ninth grade called Service Camp, which is more intense and service-oriented. Twenty-two kids were in it.
Q: Were you a camper before becoming a counselor?
A: Yeah; I went the last year of Quaker Camp and the first and last year of Service Camp. So I went in sixth grade, seventh grade and ninth grade.
Q; What activities did you do?
A: We go swimming at local rivers (and) a swimming pool, and we go to the beach every year. One of the rivers was Boulder Creek, and the other was in a park we went to.
Most years we have Olympics day at the beach and just hang out, and then we have a campfire.
We do service around the area and hike. This year we made a trail on site and helped to clear a creek of branches and debris.
We also go to Loch Lomond, which is basically the main water reservoir for Santa Cruz.
At the end of the camp, there’s also a party or dance.
Q: What were some of the services the Service Camp did?
A: A lot of times, they make bridges because of all the waterfalls and rivers. There’s a three-acre homeless garden (outside of the Quaker Center), where there are jobs for homeless people, and they go and help.
(The campers) also do Grey Bears, an organization where they take imperfect foods and give them to churches and homeless people.
I was there during Service Camp and helped with all three of those.
Q: What was your favorite activity?
A: This year, I think the beach campfire was really fun. I was kind of in charge of it. It was really stressful but really awesome.
We had to choose two committees to be on during our staff training, (and) I chose campfire and worship – which we did consecutively at the beach. I was in charge of facilitating (the campfire), choosing and assigning the songs, knowing when to stop and go to worship, and introducing worship.
(At the end of the campfire,) everybody holds hands, and we walk down towards the shoreline to have a couple minutes of worship while watching the sun go down.
Q: Could you describe the Quaker aspects of the camp in more detail?
A: For the little kids, Quakerism is honestly kind of dull – it’s too hippy-dippy for the little kids. The older kids understand it more, and many of them have a lot of respect for the religion and way of life, which is great.
The older kids include Quaker process more in their meetings and activities, but the younger kids don’t as much. However, we do have meetings for the smaller camp, and we use Quaker process.
Quaker process is where you’re in a meeting, a business meeting (for example), and there (are) a couple things that we follow. We always use consensus when we’re coming up with anything, which takes forever but has a good end result.
There’s one clerk, and they start the meeting with silence. Then they close the silence and do the agenda, and it’s really interactive with everyone. Afterwards, they close the meeting with silence.
Also, if everyone’s really rowdy, the clerk will raise his hand and everyone else will raise their hand with him for quiet.
Every Sunday we have a meeting for an hour of worship, which is where we sit in silence and self-meditate.
We did one session of worship sharing, whereas the older kids did three or four sessions.
Worship sharing is basically a regular worship session where you’re given some queries – questions you have to ponder – and think about them for a half hour. This year’s theme was stewardship and sustainability, so the queries we came up with related to that. For example, “How will being a steward (to the environment) or neglecting the environment affect the lives of future generations?”
(Worship sharing) is usually more interactive, and people talk more and give ministry more (meaning they say what they’re thinking).
Q: What did a typical day look like?
A: The little kids wake up early and wake me up at 6:30 (a.m.) and then I go down and act as the cook’s help for breakfast.
We would then have something called temperature reading, a business meeting where we get the agendas and get the feel of the campers and what their concerns are, what they’re excited about and what their appreciations are.
We usually had one activity before lunch. The first day we took the campers around the whole Quaker Center, about a mile (walk).
After lunch we’d sometimes have beat-on bunk, which is a staff meeting where we talk about the campers and get agenda changes while the campers stay in the bunks.
Afterwards we’d go swimming or have service, or have free time where they can go take hikes or play before dinner.
There would also be community building through games, which is kind of cute to watch.
When I was a camper, I hated doing that; I’m kind of an introvert, and those games put people on the spot. Now I realize that not liking them is part of the community building – other people provide support and help you step outside your comfort zone. As a counselor, it’s fun to watch them go through it.
The little kids would go to bed at 9:30 (p.m), and all the counselors went down to the lodge and made agenda plans and relaxed. We normally didn’t go to bed until 11 or midnight.
Q: What were the kids like? Were they unruly?
A: Some of them are more rambunctious than others, but they’re all sweet – and cute. They’re little children!
Q: How long have the camps been running for?
A: I’m not sure, (but) there’s people who’ve been there for 30 years.
Q: Who runs the camp?
A: The head. Anna Lisa Charon is the camp director; we call her Al. Chris is the co-director, but he’s more like the assistant director. She’s the main person.
The counselors support the campers, the support staff support the counselors and the director supports the camp.
Q: What are the requirements to work there?
A: People who are older than 20 can’t be counselors because they can drive and are on (consequently) support staff. There’s a fresh supply of people who want to be counselors each year, so you can’t be a counselor because then you’re taking someone else’s job.
You have to be three years older than the oldest camper, but it’s only in terms of grade. Some kids were 12 and I’m only 14, but it was fine because they were in seventh grade and I was in 10th.
Q: Since it’s a job, do you get paid?
A: First-years get $100, plus 50 cents for how many miles you’ve travelled. I ended up getting $250 because it’s kind of far for me. Second-year returnees get $125 plus the distance.
There’s different stipends for everybody. People between 18 and 20 get higher salaries.
Q: Do you plan on returning?
A: Yes! It was awesome. I love being a camper, (but) being a staffer is so much more fun. You know everything; you know what’s going on. There was some real drama, too.