Barnard Class of 2015
Major: Film Studies and American Studies
Position: Unit Leader
This summer, I have an internship in New York City. I will be living in a new neighborhood and I will be doing a (very) new thing. I have been going to camp since I was four, when my mother, a camp person herself, sent me to eight weeks of day camp that was 30 minutes away from our house. After six years of day camp, I went to six years of overnight camp. For another four years, I worked at that same day camp as a counselor. And then, of course, last year I was also a counselor at Columbia’s maiden Camp Kesem voyage. This summer I’ll be in an office for an internship. It’s my first summer inside. It’s my first summer where I’ll have to worry about not getting to swim in the lake enough or not getting in enough campfires.
But then I remember my one week respite from the inevitable white walls and filing cabinets that this summer will hold for me. It’ll be Camp Kesem. It’ll be seeing the returning campers run to hug me on the first day, and it’ll be meeting the new campers for the first time. It’ll be singing all fourteen-something verses of “An Austrian Went Yodeling” and talking at night during Cabin Chats. I can’t wait. Camp holds such a special place in my heart; it has provided me some of my most precious memories throughout my life. I feel so lucky to be able to share this love with Camp Kesem campers. See you in August!
Columbia College Class of 2015
Major: Sustainable Development
Position: Cabin Counselor
Before Camp Kesem, cancer was one of those sicknesses I knew about through textbooks and movies. While I lost a family friend to cancer during the Autumn of 2011, I knew nothing of the hurt it brings to those patients and especially their families. I decided to Kesem because 1. I absolutely love children and 2. I have a passion for medicine and had previously volunteered in hospitals so why not combine the two? I was completely unaware of the life-changing, tear-jerking, laughter-bringing week in store for me.
Because “cancer” was a word used but one time in a serious setting during the week-long camp, I was naively and blissfully enjoying my time at camp – oblivious of what those around me hid behind their smiles. On the evening of the Q&A with the doctor, we all sat around in a circle, pretty much to answer the same question I am answering now: “Why do you Kesem?” I hardly knew what to expect. Naturally, tears came from campers as they revealed their hearts and shared their stories. Yet two things above all made a lasting impression: First, seeing a 12 year-old girl cry not because her mother had cancer, but because the 12 year-old boy on whom she had a crush was consoling her – a boy who had lost his mother to cancer the previous year. Such depth and compassion in the hearts of children so young astounded me and broke down all the manly walls that said “don’t cry tough guy”. Second, the story of a 13 year-old camper who, from day one, enjoyed his status as “the oldest camper” and let everyone know it. That evening in the circle, he was convinced to open up after his friend, another 13 year old tough guy, shared his story. After the circle ended, he proceeded to share how his mother had passed away in years past away from home. His goal in life was to become rich not so he can support a lavish lifestyle, but so that he can find his mother’s grave and bring her body back home where she belonged.
After a week of laughs, smiles, and (admittedly) tears, I fell in love not only with the campers but with what Camp Kesem stood for. This deeper meaning previously invisible to me revealed itself in every smile, hug, and s’more that Camp Kesem had to offer, and this is why I continue to Kesem.