Life as seen through my lens…
The odd one out…
This past summer I my wife (who has been working with the Girl Scouts of Northern California for over 5 years now) convinced me to join her as a helper at a residential Girl Scout camp that takes place each year at Camp Butano Creek in the Santa Cruz Mountains, a few miles inland from Pescadero on the California coast.
Each time my wife had been during previous years she had raved about the experience, and this year I decided to give it a try and see if it was all she was making it out to be. Being a man, my first though was that I would be more than a little out of place there, but I’m a strong believer in trying anything once, especially if there’s a possibility that it could be fun. It also seemed a good way to use up 5 days of paid volunteer time off that the company that I work for allocates to all of their employees every year.
A couple of months before the camp sessions I started my preparation – attended some mandatory training sessions and signed up as a Girl Scout. Yes… I am a registered Girl Scout! Anyone attending the camp needs to be a registered Girl Scout to benefit from the camp insurance. During the training sessions I got to know some of the other volunteers involved, and seeing just how committed they were to the camp, and experiencing the sense of friendship, camaraderie, and family that this group of wonderful people went a long way to removing some of the doubts about what I had signed up for!
Come the date of the first camp session my wife and I packed all of our camp kit and headed for the coast. We were soon integrated into the camp family, and before we knew it the campers arrived. I wasn’t the only male at camp, but we were very few in number for sure. Because of my interest in photography I mingled with the campers, capturing images of them as they took part in many of the camp activities.
As I couldn’t be a troop leader, I was put in with the “core” camp staff, and was allocated driving duties. This meant I got to drive one of the camp vans taking the campers to many of the off-site activities, which included horse-riding on the beach at Half Moon Bay, kayaking at Moss Landing, surfing at Santa Cruz, and beach-combing on many of the beaches near the camp along the Pacific coastline. I often got to stay with the troops as they took part in their activities and so was able to get some wonderful shots. Because almost all of the shots have photos of camp members that are identifiable, I am not allowed to share them, but as an example, here is one that I can share that I took during one of the surfing sessions.
At the end of each session, the camp program staff put together a slideshow that gets shown to the campers, and then to their parents as they come to collect their tired but happy children at the end of the week long session. My photos made up well over half of the slideshow, and the complements from all that saw it were very humbling and rewarding, making the whole experience even more worthwhile. The most rewarding aspect of the camp though was being there to see (and in some cases help) the girls face and overcome many different challenges and fears, emerging from the experience more confident in themselves and their abilities.
I loved the experience so much that at the end of the session I made arrangements to return for the 3rd camp session (my wife was going to be there too) – taking more time from work, this time out of my own vacation balance, to return for another week, and at the end of that I was so hooked on the whole thing that I signed up to help at next year’s sessions.
Who would have guessed that being the odd one out at camp could have been so much fun?!