I heard about Camp Noah after becoming involved in the Child Life Disaster Relief training with Children’s Disaster Services at a hospital that I volunteer. When I first heard about the opportunity to serve at Camp Noah, I immediately knew it was something that I needed to look into. I knew there would be no better way to do something that I am so passionate about. I was placed on the Camp Noah Houston team. Leading up to the months, weeks, and days before camp, I was able to be trained and prepared for working with the kids. I felt ready to make an impact on the kids, but I wasn’t prepared for the impact they would make on me.
I arrived in Houston the day before camp started, met my team members, and immediately got to work preparing for our campers. We got our supplies and curriculum, and then hit the ground running on Monday. I, along with my helper, worked with the seven-year-old group, who on the first day decided they wanted to be called the “Rainbow Camels” and would only respond to “Rainbow Camels.” Each day there was a different theme presented in large group that I would help guide again in small group time by playing games, reading stories, or by doing projects to hang in our group space. One of the most enduring moments during the week was hearing each child talk about something they felt truly made them special, and then also talking about what they thought made someone else in the group special. It was easy to tell that some of the kids truly needed to be told how special and unique they are. That was something that I tried to reiterate to each child in my group – that they are special and unique. It was easy to see how the hurricane had such a huge impact on their lives, even almost a year after the event it was still impacting their lives. Throughout the week I was able to hear so many stories of loss and survival from my kids. Sometimes these stories were told during group time after being asked a thought provoking question or group discussions. Sometimes these stories were told through the artwork that we hung in our area.
Every day I was able to see how the kids were processing their stories and how they were growing from their time at camp. Every day the kids got the opportunity to tell their story, their hopes and dreams, and to have fun all at the same time. The kids had time to talk about the “”tough stuff”, but also had time to do fun things. Like play Ships and Sailors, dance to music before large group time, or tell endless knock-knock jokes. The kids, especially my Rainbow Camels, enjoyed doing a talent show to show their unique talents (our group chose to throw and catch popcorn in our mouths). Every day I got to do something fun with the kids and see how having some time to be a kid, even as an adult, is refreshing. One of the most rewarding moments for me was having parents tell me how much their kids loved being at Camp Noah and came home every day excited to go back to camp.
The kids at Camp Noah positively impacted my life and reaffirmed my passion for working with kids. I saw how truly impactful we can be in the time after trauma. Not every moment was great, there were definitely some tear-filled moments and moments of pure exhaustion. But I wouldn’t trade my experience at Camp Noah for anything.
-Allison Wyles, CL student from Monroe, LA