Happy Camping At Camp Swamp

An abundance of summer camps in and around Dongguan means there are plenty of options for youngsters to keep occupied during the vacation. Our happy camper reveals his camp experiences in the U.S.

The variety of summer camps available for young students in Guangdong is truly incredible. From drawing to horseback riding to learning English and everything in-between, there is a summer camp out there for every subject and hobby. Camps, especially the overnight type, are becoming the norm for any business that deals with children. Many parents want to see their children experience something new that will enrich their education and make productive use of the long summer break. Children can lose large amounts of knowledge learned during the previous year in the summer vacation if left to unstructured idleness and more and more organizations are providing unique solutions for this issue.

It never ceases to amaze me how willing Chinese students are to spend time learning new things. In fact, it is the spirit of the entire nation that cries out for learning and willingly embraces the unfamiliar. Businesses have picked up on the earnestness for new things which is why American football, rugby, and even archery summer camps are popping up throughout China. Parents want to know how a certain camp stands out and how it will benefit their kids. Rather than a place of fun for fun’s sake, summer camps are often another opportunity for parents to help their child gain an edge. Of course, this is not always true, but it is significant to me since I come from a very different camp culture.

Atlanta is a city surrounded by suburbs which in turn are surrounded by countryside. Often, it only requires a couple of hours’ drive from the major US city to start seeing farmland and people living a much slower and “southern” pace of life. The home of the summer camp of my youth, Union Point, GA, was one such town. Camp Swamp started on Sunday afternoons and was about an hour and a half away from the suburb I grew up in. We would pack up the car with all kinds of necessary and unnecessary items and on the way to camp, look outside the windows as the modernity of the homes we passed declined the closer we got. As we entered Union Point, the roads began to become bumpy from a lack of maintenance or due to a total absence of pavement. Each home we passed seemed to own enough land to build a small stadium upon with many choosing instead to use it as a place to indulge hoarding tendencies.

During the following school year it was back to the camp where we looked for inspiration on how to be our best selves.

Yet, Camp Swamp was something magical to each camper. The huge swathes of open grassland in-between forest clearings were like a blank canvas to the athlete in me. The giant pool with it’s high diving board and giant slide promised refreshing afternoons and an untold number of planned and unplanned games. The simple pond with it’s old canoes allowed me to live out the lives of many classic novels, fishing and finding tranquility on the water on sunny afternoons. Let me not forget that wonderful place able to capture the heart of any young boy, known as the “Snack Shack.” This small wooden structure contained treats and sweets aplenty and was the recipient of many a camper’s spring allowances.

Camp Swamp was something that children begged their parents for. It was never marketed or sold. It ran on donations and on the registration fees from its eight-week operation every summer. College students volunteered to counsel campers for free with their only compensation being a room, board, and a summer of fun. Each spring every camper would find the week where the majority of their friends were going and beg their parents to sign them up before it was full. I don’t think any of us ever saw the “Swamp” as a place we went to learn, but rather as a place we went to be ourselves and to have a blast. Yet, during the following school year it was back to the camp where we looked for inspiration on how to be our best selves. It’s encouraging to see so many schools looking to invest in the youth of China in similar ways.