That Was Then, This Is Now

Bob Dylan sang, “The Times They Are A-Changin’”. Yes, these are unprecedented and extraordinary times, which the camping industry must face.

The challenges of terrorism on September 11 and the subsequent bioterrorism threat (be it real or imagined) will have a pervasive effect on organized camping in 2002.

Camp owners and directors must deal with the reality of, “That was then and this is now” in the ongoing preparation for the 2002 camping season.

Even though the events seem ever-distant, reviewing and updating health, safety and security issues, in conjunction with human relations and communication procedures, become an even greater priority for camp administrators.

Warning Signs

Optimism for the re-enrollment of former campers, their siblings and staff prevails. However, the question of parents sending their first-time campers to attend day, residential, travel and other summer camp programs is certainly speculative at this time.

International staff coming to this country to fill camp positions has not been clearly determined as primetime recruitment is taking place. Uncertainty about enrollment of campers and the hiring of international staff has become a dilemma for camp administrators.

That which has been customary or perhaps even taken for granted at camp must be reviewed, revised and updated under the ominous umbrella of insecurity and anticipatory anxiety which have resulted from terrorism and bio-terrorism.

Parents must be contacted and reassured that the recent catastrophes are being considered in the planning process for the 2002 camp season.

A National Center for PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) Fact Sheet has recently been forwarded to schools, camps and other organizations concerning the recognition of the impact of terrorism on children and adults.

A number of physiological, psychological and social behavioral responses at home and school to terrorism can be transported to camp and must be addressed by camp administrators.

The aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing in 1993 and the other more recent traumatic events have provided significant information that can be helpful in the process of better understanding the impact of terrorism on the camp’s population.

The enclosed references from the PTSD Fact Sheet contain some excerpts of behavioral responses that children, adolescents and staff may demonstrate at camp, which are noted by D. DeWolfe, 2001; and R. Pynoos and K. Narder, 1993.

School-Aged Children (6-11 years)

• Separation anxiety from primary caretakers

• Safety concerns, preoccupation with danger

• Obvious anxiety and fearfulness

• Changes in behavior, mood and personality

• Somatic symptoms (complaints about bodily aches, pains)

• Sleep disturbances, nightmares

• Fear of feelings and trauma reactions

• Close attention to parents’ anxieties

• Worry and concern for others

Pre-adolescents and Adolescents (12-18 years)

• Trauma-driven acting-out behavior: sexual acting out or reckless, risk-taking behavior

• Flight into driven activity and involvement with others or retreat from others in order to manage inner tu moil

• Increased self-focusing and withdrawal

• Sleeping and eating disturbances; nightmares

• Abrupt shift in relationships

• Self-consciousness

• Rebellion at home, school, or camp

• Depression, social withdrawal

• Effort to distance from feelings of shame, guilt, and humiliation

• Wish for revenge and action-orientated responses to trauma

The result of these physical, psychological and socio-cultural implications may be demonstrated at camp. Books, periodicals and other media outlets have presented a proliferation of information about PTSD — its symptoms, resultant behavior and treatment.

Constructive recommendations about preparation for and implementation of procedures to deal with today’s issues and problems must be incorporated into the daily life of each camp, including…

• Communication to parents, campers and staff concerning the health, safety and security of the camp environment

• On the camp’s medical examination form and personality checklist, there are questions about how the events since 9/11 have effected the family and the camper. The families’ sensitivity to these events can be helpful in the understanding of the former or new camper’s behavior at camp.

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