As this weather draws in and we start to think about warmer time, what are you going to do next summer?
International Camp Staff Programme
Let’s start with a question – who has heard of the international camp staff programme?
The Scout Association and the Boy Scout of America website say:
Each year, the Boy Scouts of America invite Scouts aged 18-30 from around the world to come to the United States and spend the summer as an International Camp Staff member of a BSA summer camp or Cub Scout day camp.
As a camp staff member, you will:
- Spend 8 to 11 weeks as a member of the staff of a BSA summer camp in the United States.
- Make friends with Scouts from another country
- Receive free food and lodging while in camp.
- Teach BSA Scouts about Scouting and life in your country.
- Learn about another Scout Association.
- Live in another culture.
To be a camp staff member, you must:
- Be approved by The UK Scout Association.
- Be able to speak English well enough to instruct Scouts in skills.
- Be able to teach Scouting skills to Scouts in a summer camp programme.
- Be available for at least six weeks beginning in June.
- Agree to live by the culture and laws of the United States and by the BSA code of conduct.
I guess the follow-up question is what is Camp Staff really like?
In 1998 I applied to the International camp staff programme (surprise that hey). I was accepted and in the summer I headed of to the US to spend the summer working at Camp Long Lake in Wisconsin.
I did a full 11 weeks at camp in the role of Assistant Director for High Adventure. Which I must say sounds a lot grander than it really was. I had two main roles:
- to lead the weekly off-site 5-mile hike and
- work with the Director for High Adventure to run the COPE (Challenging Outdoor Personal Experience) course.
- when not doing the above I also assisted as a Lifeguard and as a Canoe/Kayak Instructor.
What I actually did is easiest to explain in terms of a working week. The camps provide a weekly summer camp element of the BSA programme. I can only basis it on the programme at the camp I was at. (remembering it was some 18 years ago)
The camp week starts on Sunday around 13:00 with arrivals, check-in site allocations and most importantly the swim test. This test gave each person on camp a tag to put on the swim board with their ability.(I had to take this on arrival and passed thankfully)
The camp was then officially opened with a campfire put on by the staff, included the flaming hoop dance. (something for another post but is pretty much self-explanatory)
One key event that happened on Sunday was young people signed up for activities. As a staff member on an activity, it was time to put your best salesman voice on and sell your activity.
Monday – Thursday: these were split into Morning and Afternoon activities sessions, where the young people would, in a large number of cases, work towards merit badges.
For me, Tuesday and Wednesdays were my days. Tuesday was 5-mile hike day and Wednesday was COPE day. Depending on the number of young people who have signed up. It was the case that most weeks the 5-mile hike went ahead but not every week the COPE course ran. When I was not involved in these two activities, I assisted as a lifeguard in ‘Aqualand’ or over at the boathouse instructing Canoeing and Kayaking.
It was the case that most weeks the 5-mile hike went but not every week the COPE course ran. When I was not involved in these two activities I assisted as a lifeguard in ‘Aqualand’ or over at the boathouse instructing Canoeing and Kayaking.
After dinner every day there was some form of evening activity. This could be Staff vs Leaders Volleyball or the “listen to the British bloke talk” campfire (held on a Thursday). Wednesday evenings the Scouts cooked in their campsites and the staff enjoyed the pleasure, most of the time, of visiting the campsites and eating the cooking.
Friday was the campwide relay ending in Aqualand for Aquafest. Aquafest including the infamous Slippery Watermelon challenge. Imagine five staff members trying to hide a watermelon underwater covered in Crisco (Lard for the Brits) and stop it from being carried from the swimming area to the bank.
Saturday was departure day. As a staff member it was about getting your assigned task (cleaning the shower blocks, taking kit to campsite x or cleaning out the kitchens) completed so you could head home for the weekend.
Most Saturday/Sundays there was then a Cub Scout overnight camp starting on Saturday afternoon and running to Sunday mid-morning. I worked quite a few of these because it was a bit far to go home.
Your week then repeated for the Camping Season which is between eight and eleven weeks.
The thing that really came as a shock to me was, you were paid to be there. I got about $100 per week, which when you getting all your meals and accommodation free makes it a nice little earner.
So Why be on Camp Staff?
If you ever fancied exploring the US this can be a great way to start, you spend eleven weeks getting to know people in scouting and can give you a real foothold for travelling. It gives you a link to scouting people who are willing to help you out if you visit their area or city or town. You can also earn and save extra money to support travelling and the end of the camping season.
“But I could do Camp America or BUNAC” I hear you say.
Well yes, you could. However, I have spoken to people who have done this and they all say they found it quite intense. having the kids be your responsibility week morning, noon and night. The great thing about the BSA Camp is that the young people come with their leaders, so once activities were over in the evening, they went back to their campsites and their leader and you were free with your fellow camp staffers to enjoy yourself.
Each camp will have different rules, the rule on our camp was you had to tell the camp warden you were going off-site and you had to be back on site for breakfast. Miss breakfast and you would be in trouble the Warden had a number of jobs saved up for those who were not there.
Just off the camp where I was there was a bar where the staff went to play pool, darts, table football and eat pizza. Some evening some staff members to head off to a local town to go to the cinema.
Any Recommendations before I sign?
A couple of thoughts/recommendations if your thinking of joining the Camp Staff Programme. The default role for the international camp staff member is something call Scout Craft (knotting, lashing, knife, axe, history of scouting). If you have outdoor experience sell it, you don’t necessarily have to hold the UK Scouting Activity permit to support the activity in the US (or you did not when I did it). It just me but I preferred to be lifeguarding and canoeing as oppose to teaching knots.
Would you do it again?
I would go again in a heartbeat (Sadly I am too old), I had a great time made some lifelong friends on or through the camp and I now always have a bed if I ever want to visit the Milwaukee area of the USA.
It was also a great way to experience Scouting and meet Scouting people in another country.