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THE NEXT GENERATION: Building Up The Next Generation Of Campers

By Katie Flanary

Each year, the Amputee Coalition offers Youth Camp to help children living with limb loss and/or limb difference increase their self-confidence and self-esteem through a supportive camp experience. This year’s Camp will be held at the Austin Clyde 4-H Camp in Greenville, TN, from July 3-10, 2022.

Camp is a time to explore, connect and grow. Diversity is a concept that considers the many ways we are alike while respecting the ways we are different. When we value diversity, we do not try to make all of us the same instead, we embrace the differences that make each of us unique. An inclusive culture in a camp is a collective set of attitudes, values, and behaviors that impact the camper’s experience.

It is interesting to note that while diversity celebrates differences between individuals, inclusion joins the diverse members into a cohesive group. At Camp, the Next Generation can experience both diversity and inclusion.

An environment of inclusiveness makes it possible for a diverse group of people to function together building on the common factors and the unique characteristics of each team member. It is important for our campers to recognize the specific challenges and circumstances others in their group may experience. Our learned behaviors, culture, and different backgrounds encourage growth and inclusiveness. Using Diversity as a tool to grow can help our campers explore new activities they may have not adventured to do before being with their peers.

A few of our goals for the Next Generation of Campers are:

• being aware of our own beliefs and behaviors and how this may influence the way we treat others.

• listening with an open mind to understand different points of view.

• being proactive in offering support to others.

• encourage campers to help each other.

• ensuring that teams are not overly influenced by a small number of individuals by seeking out the perspectives of all the campers and encouraging full participation.

• creating opportunities for campers to get to know each other beyond their time at Camp. At Camp, campers complete a rope course together.

Limb difference levels may cause different challenges however, encouraging our campers to use their strengths and experience to compliment someone else builds confidence and teamwork. We all are differently unique and each one of us has certain strengths and weaknesses. Each one of our campers and counselors have a role to play in creating an inclusive and diverse environment. Listen to what some of our past campers had to say about our inclusive camp:

• “I learned that it’s okay to be who you are”

• “I learned about other amputees’ lives and limb differences, and that I’m not alone.”

• “I learned about amputees my age and how they deal with their problems.”

• “I loved to just hang out and dance with friends.”

• “I learned what it means to be happy and what a real friend is.”

• “I learned that I’m actually athletic.”

• “I loved zip lining because I let go and allowed myself to live.”

• “I learned how to deal with being depressed.”

• “I learned that a bunch of people have the same problems and that we all had different ways of solving them.”

• “I learned that my limb difference is not a disadvantage, it is an advantage.”

• “I learned that camp makes me feel at home.”

• “I learned to be more confident in myself and how to adapt to new situations.”

• “I learned how to love myself and my disability and how to be confident about my body.”

The best way to promote diversity at Camp is by embracing it and having a broader outlook. Encouraging campers to get to know each other on a personal level regardless of their cultural background, finding common ground, deepening our appreciation of differences, and promoting an environment where campers can be free to explore, connect and grow.