Multiculturalism at camp impacted me powerfully in 1969, when I was first a camper at Heart O’ the Hills. Two of my tepee mates from Monterrey, Mexico made a significant and lasting impact on my life. More about that later.
The Heart’s embrace of international campers and staff had begun before that summer, and continues even stronger today.
Just last summer we displayed the flags of 32 countries that our campers and counselors claim as their country of residence or cultural origin.
Our four head staff members hailed from four different places and we joked about our very own STEM program: Scotland, Texas, England and Mexico. Campers came from China, Ecuador, France, Mexico, Scotland, United Arab Emirates.
They are buddies who share
The beauty of all this is that you often can’t tell who is from where. They are all precious girls and young ladies who play together, team up to help their tribes or win inspection. They are buddies who share the same rituals, songs, and jokes.
Our international counselors join the cadre of those who have brought their special breed of fun to camp. It may be Vegemite or Irn-Bru, rugby or cricket, or funny words such as bin for trashcan, trainers for tennis shoes, or boot for car trunk. It’s likely all of the above–and more!
But back to 1969. One of my co-campers was Mexican and hardly spoke a word of English, while the other from Monterrey was an American whose dad worked in an international company. She was fluent in both languages, and that planted a seed in me that grew into mastering Spanish, living and working abroad, and loving everything I’ve learned from friends south of the border. And beyond.
Mr. Bush expresses it eloquently
When George W. Bush was governor of Texas, he sent us an eloquent letter that expresses so well the beauty of our multicultural camp:
Congratulations to the campers and counselors at Heart O’ the Hills as you enjoy your summer in Texas. This retreat provides a great opportunity for you to explore the beautiful natural scenery, participate in recreational activities and learn more about other cultures.
Today’s youths are the future leaders of America and the world. By sharing experiences with people of different backgrounds and diverse heritages, you strengthen the bonds of friendship and understanding among our respective countries.. I am proud of you for choosing to spend your summer in the Lone Star State with peers from around the globe.
I commend the camp’s founders for your support of this multicultural event. Your involvement allows young people to make new friends in a safe and fun environment.
Laura joins me in sending best wishes for an exciting and memorable camp session.
Sincerely, George W. Bush
Lately our ability to bring internationals to camp under the J-1 cultural exchange visa has been under threat. Many camps across the USA are impacted, and the president of the American Camp Association, Tom Rosenberg (himself the owner and director of a private camp), explains it very well, along with what we can do to help. Here’s the link.
I think of myself as a world citizen every bit as much as I am a Texan. I haven’t mastered enough languages or traveled to enough places or made enough friends –yet
How wonderful that when we are too young yet to see the world, the world can come to us here at “The Heart.”