The second camp I worked was a week-long camp for kids with Sickle Cell and their siblings. This camp was interesting because only about half of my campers had sickle cell. I’m not going to go into a lot of detail about Sickle Cell (Visit the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America to learn more), but it is often exacerbated by heat and sometimes physical activity can be hard. This means that the heat and exhaustion can bring about pain crises for the kiddos.
It was interesting to see similarities and differences between the kids with sickle cell and the siblings that were in my groups. All the kids were energetic and joyful! They loved swimming, enjoyed arts and crafts and played well together. But I did notice that the siblings often sought attention, maybe more so than some of the other campers. On the other hand, the kids with the sickle cell diagnosis did not let it stop them from participating in any of the activities!
These campers were all from the same hospital and many of their doctors, nurses and child life specialists came and helped out at the camp. I think this allowed the patients to see their doctors as friends instead of just the person ordering lab draws and distributing pain medication. And it worked the other way around. The medical staff were able to see the kids when they were healthy and happy, instead of just lying in a hospital bed weak with pain.
For me, this camp was a medical camp Child Life Practicum. So on top of working as a counselor for the whole week, I also kept a journal and practiced writing chart notes. Although I learned a lot from working with the kiddos, journaling encouraged me to look at the children from the viewpoint of a child life specialist instead of just as a counselor. I tried to developmentally assess the campers and also learn their coping style. Even if you can’t complete a medical camp Child Life Practicum, I encourage you to use whatever volunteer experience you can get and make the best of it. Journal, assess and learn all you can from everything you do.
“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, I will try again tomorrow.”
– Mary Anne Radmacher