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Farm to Friendship: Building Community through Shared Experiences

June 26, 2024

Table of Contents

Farm to Friendship: Building Community through Shared Experiences

From Summer Staff to Camp Director: My Calleva Love Story

I came to Calleva because of a friend I met during a service trip in Moshi, Tanzania. As we worked together for a few months in 2007, my friend told stories about a wonderful place in America called Calleva. She was so passionate about this camp that I found it irresistible. My curiosity got the best of me, so instead of heading directly home to England, I went to the US in search of new adventure in a new place.

My first day at Calleva was Day 2 of the annual INSTRUCTOR CHALLENGE. Before camp begins, we create a 3-day adventure race for our incoming team of instructors. There are a wide range of experiences and checkpoints designed to train and build skills, as well as develop camaraderie as a team of leaders. As the teams of Instructors came running in, I experienced an overwhelming feeling of certainty. Right then, I knew I wanted to be a part of the high-energy camaraderie, excitement, community, and general ridiculousness of this event. Immediately, I was swept up into this big Calleva Family. By default, I was in because of my new friendship with someone who was deep in it.

My first weeks as summer staff with Calleva were Surfing Adventure Island and Leaders in Training (LIT) camp weeks. When I reflect on that combination, I realize that these first experiences encompass the full range of what we do at camp. That first summer at Calleva changed the course of my life. I had taught in England for 10 years on top of 4 years of training. Now, I adored being surrounded by a group of young adults who were better at it than me. They were so natural, so adept at teaching. I felt myself growing and thriving just by being part of the team. I loved Calleva so much that I decided not to return to England that fall. I remember calling home to say I wasn’t coming back because I’d realized that Calleva was everything I love about teaching without all the barriers.

Discovering the Joy of Teaching at Calleva

For me, teaching beyond the walls of a building, outside of the red tape, and away from rigid institutional structures renewed the joy of learning. I wanted to stay here and experience more alongside a fantastic group of educators who were truly great at inspiring, teaching, leading, empowering, and enjoying their own growth along the way. At Calleva, I’ve experienced teaching at its core.

After over 16 years with Calleva, now serving as Camp Director, my role extends beyond my first simple camp experiences. But what I love about Calleva remains true. Camp is one of very few places where children can unplug, connect in new friendships, learn new skills, and experience success in ways that are not accessible at school. Every summer, we get a fresh look at how the camp learning environment benefits campers. Now, I have the benefit to see it with added dimension since I’m now a camp parent too. I love seeing what my own children have gained from their Calleva camp experiences.

I also see how this community of leaders enriches each of us along the way. Some of my most wonderful friendships have happened here. I’ve experienced how the strength of the Calleva community shapes every aspect of our camp programs. I feel purposeful in the opportunities I have to help staff and campers grow into the most excellent versions of themselves.

The Silliness and Joy of Camp Life

But also, lest I take myself too seriously, writing this blog today, my middle school daughter reminded me how happy I am when I’m made to be silly sometimes. When I put on my crab hat to lead Council, I’m carried away by the fun of creating some whimsy inside the wild energy of a summer camp day. The stresses I feel melt away when our team shares space for Council or a staff meeting. I feel so energized and on mission.

Camp reminds me that it’s good to let go. To be pulled in and embrace the silliness, the singing, the skits, and the games. The enthusiasm is everything in those moments. I feel so privileged to be in a job that I love. Of course, there are frustrations during summer – the days can be long. But I STILL LOVE IT. At the close of each week, I feel fulfilled and purposeful, and I know that we are making a positive difference for our community. Also, I am having fun as I learn and lead at camp.

Cultivating Community Through Shared Experiences

As the Program and Camp Director at Thornappple CSA, my favorite part of the job is being part of an incredibly supportive family-like community. I love watching my children having fun, making new friends, having adventures, and growing in confidence through summer camp, HBR, and kayaking programs all year round.

My favorite programs at Thornappple are the Farm and Forest Cubs and sailing. I love being a part of young staff growing and developing into amazing leaders and kind, considerate humans. The strength of the Thornappple community shapes every aspect of our programs, just like at Calleva. I feel purposeful in the opportunities I have to help staff and members grow into the most excellent versions of themselves.

Just like at Calleva, the silliness and joy of camp life are essential at Thornappple. Whether it’s leading a silly Council session, sharing a laugh over pizza night, or celebrating our Interdependence Day Parade, these moments of levity and connection are what make our community so special. The enthusiasm and sense of togetherness are everything.

At Vines & Gardens, we’re all about cultivating community through building with natural materials – mud, wood, straw, and stone. Our Natural Building Workshops are a place to forge new friendships and revel in the joy of working with each other. We strive to communicate the genius of traditional building, organic food growing practices, and the contributions of women and indigenous peoples into each project we complete. Even the meals we serve during our building workshops reflect this – they’re infused with love, magic, and ancestral heritage.

Natural building has taken me down many different roads over the years, meeting countless different people from all over the country, visiting gorgeous structures near and far, and even appearing on a television show in Japan. But the most rewarding part has always been the experience of building with an enthusiastic group of students and the powerful catalyst it provides for creating relationships and community.

Whether it’s the high-energy camaraderie of a Calleva adventure race, the silliness of a Thornappple Council session, or the shared joy of a Vines & Gardens natural building workshop, the common thread is the power of community-building through shared experiences. By coming together around a common purpose – be it learning new skills, celebrating our interdependence, or simply reveling in the magic of camp life – we forge lasting connections and discover the true meaning of friendship.

So if you’re looking to deepen your sense of community, I encourage you to explore the opportunities at Thornappple CSA, Calleva, or Vines & Gardens. Whether it’s a week of summer camp, a natural building workshop, or a community-supported agriculture share, the chance to connect with others and create shared experiences can be truly life-changing.

About Us

Thornapple CSA: A community-driven initiative championing sustainable agriculture. We connect members with fresh, organic produce, celebrating the bond between land and community.

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