The Impact of Camp For Kiwi Kids

In the diverse landscapes of Aotearoa, New Zealand, the profound transformation that unfolds in the lives of countless young participants every year is a testament to the enduring value of outdoor camps. For local children and teenagers, camps with The Y broaden horizons, nurture independence, and most importantly, offer an unforgettable experience. For Y Central, the delivery of camps is hard work with high maintenance & staffing costs, but is ultimately driven by a simple mission – ‘Every child should experience camp’. In 2023 camps run at both Kaitoke Outdoor Education Centre and Raukawa Adventure Centre facilitated hundreds of schools in delivering safe, developmental outdoor experiences through the quintessential Kiwi tradition of ‘school camp.’

For The Y, this mission, while seemingly straightforward, is imbued with depth, significance, and intricacy. Core memories are forged at camp– memories that shape the hearts and minds of young individuals. Camps are meticulously designed to be memorable through a fusion of rich experiences that give opportunities for learning, whether it pertains to self-discovery, understanding others, or recognizing the interconnectedness of the world. All of this unfolds in an outdoor environment that magnifies the impact of these experiences.

Indeed, there is no substitute for the real-life experiences encountered at camp.

There’s no parallel to the challenge of preparing spaghetti bolognese on a gas cooker with just one pot or the sense of wonder during an early morning bushwalk, where you listen to the dawn chorus while witnessing the sunrise.

What makes these experiences even more transformative is the opportunity to undertake them with peers, away from the perceived safety that home, parents and routine provides. The absence of parental guidance adds a unique dimension to moments of reflection and adversity, rendering them fundamental and sometimes transcendent in a young person’s life.

Parents understandably grapple with concerns about what they cannot control, leading them to seek maximum protection for their children in today’s world. However, outdoor education professionals have always balanced the benefits of these experiences with the inherent risks. Teams in this field are not only highly qualified but also deeply passionate about ensuring that every young person has a fantastic time at camp. There is little doubt that camp provides a unique set of opportunities for learning, fun, friendship, and overall well-being.

The Covid-19 pandemic brought immense change to society, particularly to kids, many of whom missed out on experiencing camp due to lockdowns. Recognizing the importance of outdoor camp experiences more than ever before, now is the time for them to play their most significant role ever. In times of chaos and change, experiences that create a sense of ‘business as usual’ and enhance young people’s ability to cope with challenges are invaluable.

These experiences provide young people with the skills and resilience needed to navigate an ever-changing world while fostering unity and a sense of belonging in the ‘team of 5 million.’ The transformative power of outdoor camps is an essential part of New Zealand’s rich educational tapestry, shaping the lives of the younger generation.

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