The Affirmation Postcard

The affirmation postcard is the single greatest idea I’ve ever had to build camper retention, communicate effectively with parents, and build a camper’s sense of self-worth. Like all good ideas, it just seemed to arrive one day when I was trying to solve a problem, but as I look back, I realized it has all the markings of a Gary Forster special.

Affirmation Post Card (Front)

As you may know, Gary Forster is the YMCA camping guru (his actual title is Camping Specialist) and a regular contributor to Camp Business magazine. Lately, Forster has been pushing the idea of friendships. He’s constantly reminding those of us in the YMCA camp community to remember it’s the special friendships kids make at camp and not the bells and whistles that keep them connected to the camp. He’s constantly reinforcing the message that our camps are more than amusement parks and that we need to focus on that aspect of camp if we want to continue to be successful.

Affirmation Post Card (Bac)

An Idea Is Born

To drive his point home, Forster has presented a host of ideas designed to specifically foster camp friendships, things like creating space around camp for kids to simply hang out, talk, and get to know each other, or letting them do productive tasks together such as carrying water jugs, and on and on.

All of these ideas and more were bouncing around my subconscious as I sat down to solve one of our camp’s problems–how to strengthen our nightly devotions, that time when counselors are supposed to reinforce their connection with kids by talking with them about their day.

We feel so strongly about this portion of the camp program that we have a thick staff manual, which includes an entire section chock-full of devotional parables, stories that teach a moral lesson and help the kids drift off to dreamland. But, the program wasn’t working, well, at least not for the boy cabins.

Our female counselors had a reputation for going above and beyond the call of duty. A favorite for them was to play “Two Petals and Thorn”–a chance for campers to talk about two things they liked about their day and one they didn’t. The male counselors, on the other hand, had a well-deserved reputation for rushing through a story and taking off or skipping the parable entirely and reading excerpts from their Molecular Biophysics textbooks in an effective attempt to bore the kids to sleep (to their credit, it worked).

I wanted to create a system true to the original intent of our nightly devotion AND have a way to track whether or not all of the counselors actually did it. The affirmation postcard was born.

The Affirmation Postcard

Have you ever done the activity where everyone writes a compliment on a piece of paper on someone’s back? At the end, everyone takes the piece of paper off and can read the nice things people have written about them. The affirmation postcard is based on this idea.

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