As most of you know, I was at Camp Hope last week. It was a wonderful, tiring, stressful, encouraging trip all in one. Needless to say, there were several highs and lows and very little sleep.
Camp Hope at Camp for All is for 7 to15 year olds in Texas and Florida who are infected with HIV. This year the camp had around 150 campers and 55 counselors. There were also psychosocial and medical teams. I was with a group of ten 12 and 13 year old girls. We had 3 counselors in the beginning, but one went home early with a child who misbehaved. Essentially, it was me and the lead counselor toughing it out. This was my home for a week. The camp had many layers as you can imagine. The children came to camp with the usual social problems we seen in the clinic for their age. They are struggling with their diagnosis and the implications of it; there are lots of family problems (if they are even with a family at all); they hate medication; they usually have alot of uncontrolled anger and sexuality; several are on psychiatric and behavorial therapies; and they have usually experienced little love and acceptance. However, the cool thing about camp is that they can all attend, and regardless of where they live the rest of their lives, they are loved. In fact, most of the counselors and campers cry as the kids enter and leave camp because both adults and kids know that this is the only place where they can be loved for who they are.
There are more stories of fun and intense emotions than I could possibly tell. My favorite part of camp was my daily hugs from one of my own patients who attended camp with me. Little does he know how much I love that!
But for the fun side... we had lots of it. We did horseback riding, climbing and zip lines down, a water day, a Olympic competition, a talent show, canoing, fishing, paintball, archery, etc. Unfortunately, cameras are not allowed at camp due to obvious confidentiality reasons. I was able to take a few pictures before the kids arrived to give an idea of the set up.