When most families think about summer camp, thoughts of outdoor fun, crafts, team sports and cookouts come to mind. However, there's a new breed of exceptional community service camps popping up all over the world that offer so much more for eager to learn youth. Service oriented camps are gaining popularity, and with good reason. These camps offer youth the fun and team-player experiences of regular camps, but with a community service component that gives kids a chance to make a real difference in a community, teaches them to give back and may even help them change the world. Bonus, most of these service camps have an eco-friendly slant as well. Keep reading to learn more about community service camps for young do-gooders and see how these camps are turning out competent, humane, compassionate and strong-minded kids who are ready to take on life with gusto.
Rustic Pathways provides various service programs for students in some of the world’s most welcoming countries. Their mission is to, “Enrich the lives of our students and our staff, benefit the parts of the world we serve, and build cultural bridges that lead to greater global understanding and cooperation.” Rustic Pathways’ camp service programs are designed for positive, level-headed students with a keen interest in experiential learning and international travel. They offer both summer and spring break programs for high school and college students along with programs during the academic year for Gap Year students, and customized programs for individuals, families, and groups.
In a world that supports teaching kids to shoot small animals for fun, Humane Society service camps are very much needed. Local Humane Society branches all over the country run many camps, and some have service components for youth, such as hands-on experience with shelter animals plus counselors and guest speakers who help increase kids’ understanding and awareness of the role that they can have as ambassadors for animals. Check out the state Humane Society map to locate shelters in your area or type, “Your state Humane Society camp” into a browser search.
Image via The Road Less Traveled
The Road Less Traveled
The Road Less Traveled takes middle school and high school students out into the world to explore and give back. The Road Less Traveled notes, “We know that young people who experience certain formative “life lessons” before they are launched into independence have an advantage once they leave home. These lessons are not the ones measured by SAT or ACT scores. They are not learned by being plugged into some form of electronic medium for hours a day. They can only be experienced by taking controlled risk, moving outside one’s comfort zone, trying new things and expanding one’s horizons. On The Road Less Traveled, there is no homework and there are no grades. And no technology — no computers, cell-phones or iPods, students are free to focus on cultivating individual strengths in ways that build confidence and self-reliance.” Pretty awesome goals for kids! During summer community service programs youth may find themselves “Floating the ocean tides replanting coral reefs in Bonaire or the Keys, building a school or orphanage in the shadow of the Himalayas in Ladakh, India, or face to face with a wolf, aiding conservation efforts in a sanctuary with the sole mission of caring for these often misunderstood creatures.” Many other opportunities are available as well.
Deer Hill Expeditions
At Deer Hill, “The spirit of service is about sharing, collaboration, learning, giving – of your time, your energy, your attention – and, in return, receiving more than you ever thought possible.” Deer Hill is renowned for the quality and integrity of their community service programs and most expeditions include up to a week working with one of Deer Hill’s partner tribes: the Navajo, Hopi and Zuni in New Mexico and Arizona, or the Tico people in rural villages of Costa Rica. Some Deer Hill programs also offer the opportunity to help preserve the landscapes and wildlife of places youth visit. While on your conservation service project, you will work alongside inspirational rangers and volunteers from the U.S. Forest Service. Build a footbridge to restore vital backcountry access, create a new trail above timberline, help monitor elk populations, or restore trout habitat along a beautiful mountain stream. It’s a way of getting closer to the wilderness and saying “thank you” for its gifts.
Lifeworks has 40 years of experience offering educational global programs for teens which combine international community service projects with cultural immersion, travel and outdoor adventure. Lifeworks does not, in fact, consider themselves to be a traditional teen summer camp but instead a hands-on community service learning program, with programs grounded in experiential education. Lifeworks offer a range of programs in different geographic locations including adventure activities and service projects with an environmental or human base.
Image via CampLive Oak
Camp Live Oak – Teen Eco Experience
Camp Live Oak has multiple camp programs, but the Summer Teen Eco Program is spot on for youth aiming to make a difference. The program features a wide variety of activities including guiding younger campers through a series of outdoor activities, team building, orienteering, medicinal plants, primitive cooking, wildlife identification, day trips and much more. Additionally, youth get to learn about careers in environmental education, complete a hands-on project that will greatly benefit a park, build an innovative creation using recycled materials and renewable energy sources, discover Florida’s ecosystems including studying marine biology, renewable energy and conservation efforts.