“Back in my day…” is how your parents’ stories always began about how they grew up and how many miles they had to walk to school in the snow and you rolled your eyes; it was so much HARDER growing up when they did. Well, … back in MY day, it was EASIER growing up than it is today for our girls.

img_9076Girls today have to have a “thing” that defines them: they must be the starting forward on their select soccer team, a scholar in the top 5% of her class, the lead actress in all the school plays, the dancer that has been chosen for all the specialty teams, it goes on. They need to be the best.

At 11 years old they need their “thing”, they have to decide who they are going to be at that young age while being inundated with images and messages from magazines, movies, television and the virtual world about what is physically beautiful.

So, on top of being the best AT something, they have to also achieve some unachievable definition of “beautiful” in society’s eyes and THEN the pressure to project perfection on her Instagram account and make sure that she is not left out of any social gathering that will be blasted to the world on Snapchat and Instagram and then revisited on #ThrowbackThursday or #WaybackWednesday…phew, it is exhausting and really, really hard to be 11 years old now.

Cue camp. At Kamaji, a camper is allowed to explore different interests and explore her personality to help her develop her sense of self. The star soccer player can take a dance class or perform in our KamaGlee acapella performance without worrying if she is good enough. Girls whom never have a chance to swim in a lake or at home prefer to be more sedentary are encouraged to strengthen their swim skills and learn to push themselves to do something different like paddle-board.

img_8349Campers are encouraged to bring their old clothes and wear them out at camp. Shorts, t-shirts and ponytails are the “uniform” here. “Beautiful” means a lot of different things here, “beautiful” comes in all shapes, sizes and colors.

“Having friends” here is not determined by how many likes you get on your post. Instead, friendships are formed while girls are sitting in an x-boat together. Girls become friends while walking to the hand-pump together to fill water bottles before going to bed. They cement their friendships while sitting shoulder-to-shoulder in the cabins paging through a magazine together. They are initiated into a tribe here at camp, and they bond while running around playing Capture the Flag.

Kamaji is a safe, healthy, “unplugged”, supervised environment where campers are encouraged and supported. There is enough structure that the campers are given guidance but also enough flexibility that they are able to make decisions that help them grow their independence and feel empowered. We do not expect perfection here, we recognize campers for their individual accomplishments and achievements whether it be passing a level in windsurfing or writing a poem for our weekly camper-led Evening Program; but campers are not defined by what they do, it is how they do it: with courage, kindness, perseverance and empathy.

Camp allows them a break. They are able to act like kids, they are given permission to be goofy, silly and deliriously happy. These opportunities at Kamaji help them to grow more independence, feel a greater sense of self, learn about what true happiness feels like so that when they return to the world of their “things”, pressures to be “beautiful” and selfies…they can do so stronger and braver, like a Kamaji girl.

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