July 14th – Empowering Campers Through Health

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Hello from the Canaan Valley. My name is Paul and I’m one of the camp nurses. Here at the health center we believe in empowering campers through health. This is my 6th summer at Merrowvista and when I first started, I underestimated the health team’s role in the community and camper’s lives. I have learned that camp nursing is more than just treating scrapes and stomach aches. Like every other Youth Development Professional here, our job is to help campers grow and learn to be their best selves.

During the rest of the year I work in the Emergency Room, where I am used to fixing immediate, individual needs. But camp nursing calls for more than that. The health team isn’t just bandaging campers up and sending them on their way. When your camper comes with a minor scrape or cut we show them how to wash it out with soap and water and put on their own Band-Aid or Ace wrap. If, on a hike, a camper needs to rest a sore knee and needs less weight in their pack, it becomes a team challenge. The whole village will be asked to work together to redistribute group gear so that everyone can be successful and safe.

There doesn’t need to be an illness or injury for campers to take charge of their health and wellbeing. Meal times offer a wide variety of quality fuel options for their day, from the daily salad bar, to the fresh fruit at each meal (even sometimes for dessert). I suspect that many parents would be pleasantly surprised to see how many campers rush up to make their own salad in the dining hall. Campers are encouraged to think about drinking plenty of water and taking a piece of fruit as a snack that’s always available in between meals.

Days here start with “go getters” where campers can choose between activities like running, swimming, volleyball, or brännboll to get their bodies moving. Every afternoon we have “easy time” where campers rest quietly in their bunks either sleeping or reading to recharge for the rest of their day. We talk about rest and exercise as a way to take care of our Physical Fold and live a balanced life.

At the end of the day we give campers the opportunity through evening reflection and village insight to talk and reflect on their days and the tools they’ve gathered. Processing the day makes for healthy problem solving, which can be just as crucial as soap and water for campers’ overall wellbeing. We hope that campers carry these tools and practices in to their lives beyond camp.

Because as William H. Danforth (one of the American Youth Foundation’s founders) said in his book I Dare You, “Wealth can’t buy health, but health can buy wealth.”