Grasshopper and Sensei did a five week service trip through her YMCA sleepaway camp to Australia. It was a trip of a lifetime with about a dozen kids both boys and girls and two counselors! The International Camper Exchange Program (ICEP) goes to more than a dozen countries and anyone who has done sleepaway camp through the YMCA can apply, though the application process is rigorous and a lot like applying to college.
Their service work included: Camp Yarrmundi (13 hours), Aruman Lodge Nursing Home (6 hours), Morgan Street PS (6 hours), Broken Hill YMCA (5 hours), Riding for the Disabled (17.5 hours), Salvation Army (4.5 hours) and Elanora After School Program (5 hours) for a total of 57 hours. The work they did included: building a garden, entertaining nursing home residents, helping out at a school, weeding, mulching and planting dozens of trees, clean up, and painting classrooms.
In addition to their service work, they did a 5 day homestay where they attended the local high school with their homestay high school kid and also did sightseeing and travel throughout Australia. For these programs are like, please read the updates from my daughter’s camp counselors below.
Dear ICEP Australia Families and Friends,
Everything has been great the first few days! After we landed we met up with our host Rohan who took us straight to Bondi beach. There we met up with the senior leadership group of Yarramundi, which was a group of similarly aged Australian teenagers. Together we went on a beautiful walk along the beach and surrounding cliffs. Afterwards we headed back to Camp Yarramundi and for the past two days we have been working on our service project here. This has included building a garden, spreading mulch around camp, and taking down an old fence. At Yarramundi the group has had a great time bonding with the Australian teenagers and integrating into the Yarramundi camp life. Tomorrow we are looking forward to exploring and hanging out at camp a bit more before heading in to Sydney on Sunday for some exploration.
Best Regards from Down Under!
Dear Families and Friends,
The group has had an incredible time the past few days in Australia! We had our Sydney day, in which the participants got a chance to walk around Sydney and explore what it has to offer. After grabbing lunch we all made it to the wonderful Sydney Opera House, which everyone was so excited to finally see. After some shopping and a ferry ride on Sydney harbor we headed back to Yarramundi.
Wake up was early the next morning as the group packed up their luggage to catch the train into the Outback to the town of Broken Hill. After a long and weary, but fun 13 hour ride we finally arrived. For the next couple days we spent each morning at the local nursing home where the group got to talk with the residents as well as play games and run our planned American trivia activity. Lots of music and singing was involved including a group rendition of “American Pie” for one resident’s birthday request.
Last night the group also got a chance to immerse themselves in the local sporting culture with some Australian Football or “Footy.” We all got a lesson on the rules as well as a chance to practice and play a bit before watching two of the local teams play a game. Today the group was excited to travel to a primary school in Broken Hill where all of the participants were assigned to spend the day with different classrooms. They all prepared small presentations to give and the Australian kids were so excited to have us there. We were all lucky enough to have a barbecue put on for us at lunch and spent some time just playing and hanging out with the students. More singing was involved as well when the participants had the opportunity to teach the students camp songs and games.
Next up we are planning on enjoying the small mining town of Silverton tomorrow, as well as spending the weekend watching an Australian football game and seeing some of the famous Broken Hill sculptures.
Until next time,
Dear Families and Friends,
Since our last update the group got to do some incredible service and sightseeing in Broken Hill! We got to first explore the small mining town of Silverton where parts of the Mad Max movies were filmed. The next couple days we were all able to attend an Australian rules football game, explore and get a tour of the old Daydream mine which went a few hundred meters underground, and explore the town of Broken Hill some more. The rest of our time there we did a lot of fun activities such as painting a part of the local YMCA, seeing a beautiful sunset at the famous Broken Hill sculptures, and celebrating one participant’s birthday! Everyone also got to see plenty of kangaroos and even some emus!
Eventually it came time to leave Broken Hill and it was a sad goodbye as it also meant saying goodbye one of our new Australian friends, a teenage girl who had spent the week in Broken Hill with us and who the group had grown close to.
After a long train ride we arrived back at Camp Yarramundi to a warm welcome. The next few days were spent doing some great service work in the surrounding area. We spent one day at an organization called Riding for the Disabled that does therapeutic work for physically and mentally disabled individuals through work with horses. The group helped out by planting trees and doing some other gardening work on the grounds. Another day was spent at the Salvation Army where we helped clean the church and organize the goods and clothing for the store. The group showed lots of hard work and enthusiasm for both projects!
On our last day at Yarramundi before homestays the group did some fun teamwork initiative activities and for our last night we celebrated another participant’s birthday! Yesterday everyone said a sad but excited goodbye as the headed off with their homestay families for the next 5 days. Each participant will also attend the same high school with their homestay student over the course of the homestay, which they are looking forward to.
Until next time,
Since our last update, the members of ICEP Australia got to spend six days with homestay families, attending high school with local students and exploring more of the Blue Mountain region! Everyone had an incredible time and got to do activities with their families ranging from visiting the zoo, exploring more of Sydney, hiking in the mountains, and attending various sporting events.
After some time apart, we all reunited with a barbecue at the high school where fun was had and goodbyes were said with promises of visits to the US in the future. Once back at Yarramundi, we enjoyed an amazing experience at an Aboriginal cultural center where we had a chance to meet the elder of a local tribe, who taught us about traditional art. Everyone got to practice painting and create their own mini canvas. We also got to spend some time at a YMCA in a nearby town with an indoor pool and sauna, an awesome way to relax.
Today was one of the highlights of the trip: going to Walkabout Wildlife Park, where we learned how to throw boomerangs and how to use traditional Aboriginal tools. We also got to meet and interact with kangaroos, wallabies, bilbys, echidnas, wild birds, peacocks, snakes, and koalas. All the animals are native to Australia and it was amazing to get to approach them, pet them and learn more about them. We are excited to spend our last week in Australia exploring the Blue Mountains, doing more community service at the Riding for Disabled Program, and even camping out at Yarramundi’s overnight campsite in the bush. We are having an amazing time!
p.s. Photo credits to my daughter and her fellow campers. Sorry, I don’t know who took what photo.
p.p.s. Here’s a picture book for girls who go away to sleepaway camp and come back fierce with confidence.
When my camper was in preschool, her teachers had her work on being more assertive. We worked at that at home too. Bigger voice! Don’t be shy! By 4th grade, we realized it worked a little too well. Still, my daughter had no desire to go away to sleepaway camp. As a rising 6th grader, she was invited to a one week art camp. She went and had a wonderful time. This gave her the confidence to go sleepaway camp for a month at Chimney Corners. And after a few summers here, she ventured to Australia. So you could say that Fuchsia Fierce speaks to me!
Fuchsia Fierce by Christianne Jones, illustrated by Kelly Canby
Fuchsia’s parents thought that sending her away to Camp Confidence would change her shy and timid personality, but she was determined to stay the same. She made excuses to get out of trying anything new. It worked for a while, but she noticed she was missing out on the all fun and finally decided to join in. She wasn’t the best at everything she tried, but that was fine. Her sleepaway camp experience taught her to believe in herself! Now her name really suits her. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
BEST #OWNVOICES CHILDREN’S BOOKS: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Ages 1-12 is a book that I created to highlight books written by authors who share the same marginalized identity as the characters in their books.