First Day Impressions

IMG_20150731_182637Today is my first day of camp. I have the same feelings I did when I was a little kid going off to camp at the beginning of the summer. It’s only been about twenty minutes since I have been here, and I already feel overwhelmed. Not the run-for-the-hills kind of overwhelmed but the kind where you are very excited and nervous for what’s to come. One of the groups I spent time with was with was singing “Hakuna Matata,” and even though they were singing in Hebrew I found myself singing along (in my head in English). For me, being around and hearing something foreign and yet so familiar, like that well-known song, was very comforting. Watching all the kids energetically bounce around reminds me of when I went to camp. That made me so happy because once again I felt as though I could relate even though I could not understand anything that was being said.

What was even more comforting was just how friendly everyone was. Almost half of the staff and campers speak some level of English but even those that couldn’t, still made an effort to come over and make me feel welcomed. I am a very shy person when it comes to meeting people, as well as being in large groups but the friendly atmosphere helped me get through it.

The best part of my day was being in one these blow up plastic balls called “Zorbs”. At first it was just me and the other interns but after a few minutes all these campers came rushing in. They just started pushing me around, and then the staff joined in and it was really fun interacting with everyone in such a friendly manner.

Overall I had a really good day. I was internally freaking out most of the day trying to find my place and see where I fit in within the camp. I think after a few days I will start to feel more comfortable, and really get to enjoy Camp Shutaf for what it is – a really fun and inclusive environment. Within one day, I already feel like a changed person. and I can’t wait to see what the rest of these three weeks will hold!

Stephanie Reynolds is currently a summer intern at Shutaf. A Toronto native, she is in Israel on the ‘Real Life Israel,’ summer program.

Seemingly Small Steps

My daughter Adina hasn’t missed a Shutaf camp session yet – she’s been to all 13 of them since our first summer camp in August 2007. She was my reason for creating Shutaf with Beth Steinberg and embarking on this incredible journey together with our staff and all the children who have enjoyed many hours of quality inclusive programming at Shutaf.

Adina’s group, the Chokrim (Explorers) are an inclusive group of young teens who leave camp to go about town, learning independent living skills like riding a bus, paying for a snack, volunteering at a soup kitchen, self defense skills as well as learning about the wider community. Finding out what potential jobs are there? What does a hotel look like behind the scenes?

I love seeing Shutaf lessons brought home. Adina, 15 ½ , has always been hesitant to hold money in her hand, let alone feel confident enough to conduct a purchase on her own. At Shutaf she’s been learning how to make a simple purchase by herself with staff support. What an incredible opportunity.

Yesterday, we were having lunch at a local pizza parlor, enjoying the last day of summer vacation together. After lunch, Adina wanted ice cream for dessert.  I gave her the money and told her to go inside and buy it. Instead of her usual “you do it”, she agreed! Wow! In our world, that’s a tremendous breakthrough, close to a miracle… and it is thanks to Shutaf.