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A month ago, I got a call from the Chair of the American Camp Association. He and the CEO of the ACA had been working closely with the US State Department to assure that potential counselors would be able to get visas.

In the course of casual conversation, their contact from the State Department shared a thought.

“There are a bunch of high school exchange students from Ukraine in the US. They were here for their junior years, but they are now stuck. Most of them come from regions where they cannot return to. Do you think any camps might be able to provide them a positive experience?”

Of course, my friend said yes, volunteered to take several and called us. We jumped at the chance to help.

This summer, we will host 8 Ukrainians - 4 for three weeks and 4 for 2 weeks at the end of the summer.

Their placement programs arranged transportation and we are taking care of everything else.

When I met them, I told them they are too old to be normal campers or even Senior Campers, but too young to be counselors, “We have no idea exactly what you will be doing, but we will work together make sure it was a good experience.”

This morning, I was meeting with the oldest Senior Campers (those who just finished 11th grade) and our 4 Ukrainians were with them. We were talking about events that are challenging at first, but help us become stronger or more appriciative later. The Senior Campers shared some great examples.

  • Failing to make a travel hockey team or a junior orchestra, but succeeding the following year after extra practice.
  • Losing a beloved pet and converting that sadness into volunteer work with dogs.
  • Struggling with physics, but realizing that math is not something she “can’t do”, but just something that she needed to learn to do better.

But the most powerful moment came at the end. Anastastia - nickname Tusya (pronounced “Two-See-uh”) - raised her hand.

“I have had several challenges, but the one I am thinking about the most is the war in my country. I am from Mariupol. My home is mostly destroyed. My grandmother is gone. My school is gone. I am not sure when I will be able to return. But, I have also seen such kindness from other people. I now know that even when the worst things happen, there will be people who will help me find brightness.”

What do you say to that?

I concluded the talk with a simple observation - “My goal today is to be a little more like you, Tusya!”

Steve Sir