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BIATCH–Because It’s All About the CHildren

December 28, 2008

From my first experience as a Junior Counselor at a CISV Village and in subsequent staffing experiences at two more Villages, I have slowly but surely developed a simple hierarchy when it comes to my priorities and the decisions I make in my role in a Village: the participants/delegates first, Junior Counselors second, Leaders third, Staff fourth, and finally, myself fifth. One of the offhand suggestions made at a Leadership Training I attended was the mnemonic BIATCH–Because It’s All About the CHildren. Everything that I do at camp should be done in the best interest of the 48 eleven year olds that are together to live, learn and grow amongst one another.

This past summer I was a staff member at a Village in Atlanta. The entire four-and-a-half week experience was one of the hardest, most emotionally draining experiences of my life. It put me to the test–physically, mentally and in my attitude. I can’t say I didn’t have fun or make new friends–I did both–but thanks to the efforts (and lack thereof) of a few people, I was left with my first and only negative impression of a CISV camp.

The specifics and semantics of the conflicts that occurred during the camp are not important to this blog post, or anything for public consumption for that matter.  I invested damn near everything I had emotionally and physically to ensure a safe, fun, and educational experience for the 48 kids under the watchful eyes of a staff, leader group, and Junior Counselors. Once again–thanks to a few people, this investment was torn apart, questioned, and belittled. On more than one occasion during camp I found myself either close to or in tears as a result of the actions, words, and ultimatums from people that were a part of my staff team. At the end of camp, I was left alone in the Atlanta airport where I was to catch a flight to CISV’s Annual International Meeting in Italy, drinking a beer, shaking, unsure whether I should cry or throw up. Nothing in my life up to that point compared with the joy, anger, sadness and frustration I felt at being away from such a toxic situation.

What has happened since camp ended? Those that were involved know who they are, have not appologized for their actions and harsh words, and some even pretend like nothing happened. I have struggled for the last five months to come to some sort of closure about the situation. Until recently, I haven’t even been able to flip through the pictures and videos of the camp, let alone read completely through the “memory book” inscribed with messages from every participant, JC, leader and staff member at the camp.

When I finally did build up the gumption to read through what everyone said, I came to an important realization: while I encountered what was at some points an awful experience, that thanks to my efforts, decisions and actions, the camp was a success amongst the participants. While in Denver over the past few days, I began looking through my box of things from the Village. In it, I found something that is a physical representation of everything that the camp was about: a piece of a seventy-something patch “quilt” of hopes and dreams for the world done by everyone at the camp.

We Have a Dream Village Quilt Piece.

When I found it, I immediately knew that the simple, yet intricate drawing from one of the Brazilian delegates needed a place outside of a storage box. This quilt piece is part of the closure that I need as I begin to take stock of the past year: the participants at camp were 100% successful at meeting the goals of the Village programme and my own expectations of them during that time. I don’t know if I will ever receive apologies or acknowledgment of any kind. What I do know is that from this point on, I will be able to look up at my wall and see a very physical reminder of the absolute success and effect that CISV has on my life as well as the world around me.

One Comment leave one →
  1. December 29, 2008 2:06 am

    Hi Martin,

    I found your name via a twitter search on CISV. I am happy to see that some people mention it and I now follow a bunch of other CISVers, like you.

    I have been quite active between ’98 and ’05, nowadays not so much though. The friends remain though. I think Twitter would do a great job at narrowing that geographical gap, too bad not many CISVers use it yet 🙂

    Have a great day and happy tweeting!

    The Netherlands

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