As I sit here typing this, I can’t help but to have a huge smile on my face. My first Empower Camp journey was AMAZING.
To start, what is Empower Camp you ask? Empower Camp is a summer camp program igniting the inner power of young women ages 13-18. Our vision is a world where young women radiate strength, have the courage to speak up and are empowered to create the life they want to lead. More information can be found at empcamp.com. This year, camp was August 10th through 13th at Camp Duffield in Delevan, NY.
I learned about Empower Camp in January when I met Sarah Bachwitz the Founder and President at the BN360 Spotlight Professionals celebratory event. I was so proud to be in such great company with the other spotlight professionals, but learning on a deeper level what they each were so passionate about really blew my mind. When I spoke with Sarah about the camp and looked up the website, I knew I had to get involved. Luckily, the camp was still looking for counselors so I attended the next upcoming meeting. The existing camp volunteers welcomed me with open arms and it felt so safe and refreshing. If I felt like this after one staff meeting, I couldn’t imagine the feeling we would be able to bring to our campers come August.
Even though I attended staff training at camp Duffield in May, I still wasn’t sure what to expect when August actually came and the campers were in the cabins with us. I had never been to sleep-a-way camp as a kid, but I knew this was a great opportunity to push myself and jump into something I usually wouldn’t. The mission of Empower Camp was so important to me, it quieted my fears of the actual camping. I knew some of the girls I would have in my cabin had likely never been to camp either, so I didn’t have to feel like an expert! The girls in my cabin were entering 7th, 8th and 9th grade and came from a variety of cultural backgrounds and family situations.
I have to start by saying I was blessed to be paired with Katie, my co-counselor. There were 2 counselors and approximately 6 campers in each cabin. Katie had been a counselor last year and is on the board, so I really looked up to her and trusted her opinions and guidance. She was so understanding every step of the way and helped me use my strengths but also knew when to jump in and take charge. Having a strong support system was so important.
During one of the FLOB times (flat lying on bunk) I took some notes on what I was feeling and I’m going to share those with you now!
- Even though I had lead my girls through their first #realchat on self-confidence, I realized how much of what I was saying still applied to myself. We talked about topics like negative self-talk and power posing. I felt such purpose to be there for these girls and to help them learn, and was thankful for the reminders for myself.
- I realized how present I was. I was feeling each of my feet hit the ground when I walked and I was living in the moment. My mind wasn’t worrying about something elsewhere. The girls didn’t have their cell phones, and staff only kept them on them for emergency purposes. Not checking emails or social media for almost 4 days was so refreshing.
- I slept so well. I didn’t think I would since I was in a sleeping bag, in a cabin, with other people. But I realized that I slept so soundly because I wasn’t worrying about what was coming the next day. Usually at home, I have to fall asleep to the Headspace ap or a podcast because I can’t turn my mind off.
- It felt so good to be completely focused on my girls. Every second of the day our job is to ensure they are feeling safe and having fun. For me, it felt so freeing to focus all of my energy on our campers and not once did I think about my own life back at home.
- I was taking deep breaths naturally and savoring the fresh air. Again, I’m not an outdoorsy type of person, but something about the energy at camp made me excited to be outside. I feel like I have to type it again, the fresh air felt so good.
- I felt powerful. There was something about wearing my yellow buff (yeah, I couldn’t figure out what a buff was until I got to camp either.) yoga pants, Empower Camp Tee and sneakers. I felt like I could take on the world!
On the last day we went around the room and asked the girls to share one thing they learned that they were going to take home with them. Some of them had such powerful moments where they were vulnerable, they cried, and they were so committed to making a change in their lives one way or another. And you best believe I cried right along with them. This was my first time camping and working with this age group and it was such a rewarding experience. I can’t wait to be a part of camp again next year!