During our recent administrative retreat we discussed the importance of diversity at Camp Alleghany. It’s something we’ve definitely been improving over the years in terms of the more obvious associations of diversity as seen in ethnicity and race.
But it became clear in our talk that we’d like to broaden our understanding and mission for diversity at Camp Alleghany by considering other ways in which diversity is present and enriches the camp experience. We’d like to celebrate all the other types of diversity we have at camp.
Types of diversity
For example, though some of our Australian and English counselors have been white, just coming from a different English-based culture has meant different contributions to the camp experience. Whether it’s different phrases — off to the Loo — or different supply names — trainers instead of sneakers — just being exposed to these cultural variations adds something unique. There are also new songs, games, and problem solving approaches that come from an international staff body.
Everyone agrees that having campers and counselors from around the world is a totally great experience and exposes us all to interesting other lifestyles. Plus, we yanks just love those accents!
There’s also religious diversity at Camp Alleghany. Though we hold our church service in the spirit of a communal chapel it is not a doctrinaire service. Not everyone at Alleghany is Christian and we welcome and celebrate different religious and spiritual perspectives, eager to hear about other traditions. Within our mission to uphold strong ideals there is always respect for this diversity.
During our talk we loved thinking about the ways in which a hometown offers its own flavor of diversity for all the girls and staff. Some of us are from big cities, some from small towns, others from suburbs, and maybe even a farm or someplace exotic.
The same goes for schools. These can be large or small, public or private, boarding or day, or maybe even homeschooling or study abroad. Not to mention some campers are in first grade and some staff are getting their doctoral degrees!
Clearly the different ways in which our everyday experiences out there shape us adds to the diverse nature of our camp once we’re all together in the Alleghany community. And that’s awesome!
Still more diversity
Now, it may seem like a bit of a stretch but we also thought food choices and needs, such as being vegan or vegetarian (by choice), or Gluten-Free or lactose intolerant (by necessity) brings a new element of diversity into camp. We support these needs and choices and will do our best to help provide what’s needed or desired in this regard. And, it’s a perfect opportunity for those with different dietary styles to share with others what they do differently (if they choose to), helping to teach others about food diversity.
And what about families? There is immense diversity in families today — some are large, others are small. Some are traditional, others nontraditional. Some might be multi-generational under one roof as well. And…some might have Ghany alums and others might be the first to come to camp!
When there are various medical needs with campers this of course remains private to the degree desired by family members or the camper. But other times the camper chooses to be open about it. There have been campers with different conditions who we were able to accommodate and we saw them thrive. Even if it is only the medical staff and administration who knows about a condition that still invites a kind of diversity in how our job is expanded to work within that need.
There’s also diversity in economic status which, because camp is a non commercial venture, is largely unseen in that it doesn’t divide campers in any obvious way. You can’t tell rich from poor in the river, shooting an arrow, or making a ceramic dish in arts and crafts. Still, there are subtle ways that this diversity plays out positively as well, simply from different life experiences and life stories. And now that (drum roll please…) we have our new scholarship fund, we can increase the opportunities to help girls get to camp who might not otherwise have the chance.
So for us, diversity is a many faceted thing. From ethnic backgrounds to the street you live on to whether you fly the Union Jack or the Stars and Stripes, we define diversity broadly and embrace it proudly!
–Elizabeth Dawson Shreckhise, Assistant Director, Camp Alleghany for Girls