Between the 26th of February and the 5th of March, our team had the pleasure to participate in the Campacity – Europe and USA Camp Conference 2023. Our staff and leaders from YMCA Romania National Office, YMCA Baia Mare and YMCA Cavnic together with YMCA Ukraine, Georgia, Nederland, Slovakia, Spain were hosted by the team of YMCA of USA and had the opportunity to visit YMCA Camp Duncan and attend different sessions delivered by American YMCA camp professionals. During that week we were able to exchange best practices, build a strong network of camp professionals between the USA and Europe and have mutual learning inspired by the best in camp business, the YMCA of USA.
Here are some testimonials from our team:
“As camp coordinator for YMCA Cavnic, the opportunity to participate to Campacity 2023 proved to be enriching and valuable both from a professional as well as from a personal point of view. The 5 days spent meeting and talking to camp leaders/directors from YMCA organizations in the USA and in Europe (Georgia, Spain, Ukraine, the Netherlands, Armenia) meant precious time during which we shared experiences and best practices and also learnt from other people.
From a personal perspective, Campacity 2023 showed me how powerful YMCA is worldwide, how strong its spirit is and the whole experience confirmed once more my understanding that, indeed, camps do have a strong influence on children’s and young people’s lives, shaping their characters through the 4 core values – caring, respect, honesty, responsibility. I am really eager to put into practice, this summer, some new ideas I found out about and see how they work.” Claudia-YMCA Cavnic
“Attending the Campacity 2023 Conference introduced a new perspective about the YMCA, that I’ve never had before. It was simply amazing to join such fascinating people and connect over our mutual love for camps. There, I have learnt that the world is much bigger and full of things to discover and experience. The people I met made my adventure there more enriching by teaching me, laughing, and crying with me. I am grateful for this opportunity, that at 23 I got this amazing taste of America and that I could learn how the Y changes lives and impacts communities there. I was pleasantly surprised to discover the culture of donating that is so prevalent in American lifestyle and I feel inspired to give my best to bring communities together, connect people and offer awesome camp experiences for children and youth in Baia Mare and around!
Also, I will start my journey to help young people discover the wonders of doing volunteer work and how to become more involved in camps.” Dana-YMCA Romania
“We started our American adventure with a couple of days of discovering Chicago’s beauty. After that we visited the YMCA’s national office and the YMCA Metropolitan of Chicago office where it was really nice to meet so many Y people with whom we met, only online.
The next day we traveled to Camp Duncan where we were received with open arms. I was impressed by how well all the camp was designed. It was clear that they thought about every little corner. I can imagine that every kid that comes to this camp will return home with life-changing memories.
During our stay, I participated in all the workshops that were addressing camp operations issues. There were topics covered as: benefits of YMCA day camp, kids character development, YMCA Day Camp guidelines, planning of day camps, activities ideas.
Furthermore, we addressed mental health tools and resources and how to use them in the camp programming and we learned about camp culture building.
I would say that this Conference was like an energy gel that you take before a competition to keep you going. The ingredients of this energy gel were all the Y people that came to teach us, prepare us for the coming camp session.” Ana-YMCA Romania
“For many years I’ve heard many stories about Y USA Camps from my colleagues who were able to visit them. Being there was totally different and changed my perception about it. Through Campacity 2023 I got the chance to understand what camp really means for the YMCA people who’ve been organizing and developing them for many many years. It was very reassuring to find out that we have common reasons for doing camps and these big camps were built with small steps. I felt very little when I arrived there, but after a couple of days spent with the amazing people from the Y, I feel powerful, and I feel that I am allowed to dream big.
I was absolutely amazed by the connections we managed to build and how humble everyone was. I felt inspired and validated by people with a lot more experience than me. I now feel that together we can do great things for the world. I am motivated and excited to build strong partnerships and I can’t wait for us to contribute to a new generation of camps.“ Andreea – YMCA Baia Mare
“I never had “the American dream” but if I would, it would definitely look like the week we spent in Chicago and Camp Duncan. I went there feeling like an impostor, like I’m too small to share anything with the greatest US camp providers and what I discovered was a network of incredibly supporting people. Having the privilege of learning from such great professionals, with tens of years of camp experience, was exactly the push I needed in taking further steps in creating a real camp culture in my community. I always said camps are my favorite thing to do but after Campacity, I am completely in love with them, and I am truly convinced that they are key to healthy child development.
The peak of this conference was definitely the location: we spent 4 days on a fantastic campsite while having the opportunity to witness a preteens camp happening around us. The energy, the joy, the whole camp vibe is exactly what I always dreamt of having here, in my hometown, and now thanks to these people, I believe it can come true. A wise man there said, “if you want to make the world a better place, send them to camp” and it struck me. Yes!!! That’s how we can change the world, that’s how we can heal it, that’s how we make it better. Campacity is and will be probably the most transformational and inspirational experience in my entire adult life.” Alexandra -YMCA Baia Mare
“When we arrived at the Chicago airport, we felt instantly the welcoming and the supporting from YMCA of the USA. We decided to arrive a couple of days earlier in order to adjust the time difference and to visit the city. We also had the chance to meet a few other participants and to exchange our insights about our local camps. Once all the participants arrived our first activity was to have dinner together and we had the opportunity to start getting to know each other. The following days, we visited the offices for Y-USA and YMCA of Metro Chicago, and we were amazed by everything we saw. The messages on the walls and the posters related to the YMCA Values made us feel that we were part of the same family, even though our countries are far away. One of the highlights of the first part of our visit was the dinner hosted by one of our colleagues from Y-USA family in which ate local food and we felt like home.
During the second part of our visit, we stayed at YMCA Camp Duncan, an amazing camp that included everything that we could imagine a YMCA camp would have. During our stay in the camp, we participated in sessions delivered by YMCA camp professionals and we were able to discuss and exchange best practices regarding our camps. The sessions were split into Camp operations and Camp strategy. I participated in the Camp strategy sessions, and I found a lot of ideas which we could apply to our camps, related to managing risk at camps, building camp networks and change management. At the end of the daily sessions, we were doing reflection in our county teams, and we were sharing our daily knowledge. Every day we were feeling even more amazed and empowered with new tools and capacities and we promised each other to apply them starting this year’s summer camp.” Nikolia– YMCA Romania
From the different points of view of our team, we can notice that during the conference there was a variety of knowledge and a diversity of opinions and many productive discussions. Everyone felt that they learned something new, saw different perceptions and built new networks for future cooperation. And as a matter of fact, on the last day of the conference, the participants exchanged contact information and planned an online meeting at the end of March to discuss the preparation for the summer camps and for mutual support. This conference helped us find new approaches to raise our camp’s quality standards and we are very grateful, and we appreciate Y-USA for hosting all of us and organizing this strategic event.