by: Ate Grace Bragado, Batch 2009
20th April 2011, while killing the hyperactvity within me
The summer camp is already over. After 12 days of living with the special children, I’m finally back in the city and can’t help but reminisce the events that occured during our stay in Iriga Central School.
Mixed emotions enveloped me as the bus started to roll in the early evening of April 18. I took a last glance at the school that cradled us for the past ten days. Indeed, I’ll surely miss walking back and forth from the group2 red-makusog room to the staff room, to the field and out in the city. Kuya Jess (the AKD) said it was a 500-meter walk from end to end and it was obviously a 1-kilometer walk as I stupidly remember when I had to return to the room when I forgot to bring my pen with me when they called for a meeting at the staff room!
Group 2 Makusog Senior Counselor, Ate Grace with her cuties and wonderful campers
For the record, I started attending the PVI Kamp Pagkakaisa three years ago. It was just a part of my job at first, since I have to monitor the development of the kids from St. Coletta Special School as they joined in the activities of the said camp. I was mending a broken heart that time and the camp served as a therapy for me. I immersed in the group since I don’t have skills in cooking (because house parents were traditionally designated as kitchen staff). It was Camp Mabalacat. The next camp was in Mexico, Pampanga where I served as an Assistant Counselor. My experience with the second camp was also great, that I decided to join in this year’s camp.
Being a volunteer in PVI Kamp Pagkakaisa is a tough job. From the responsibilities of the Founders, the kitchen, the marketing, Kamp Director, Assistant Kamp Directors, STAG Coordinators, and Kamp Staff down to the Senior and Assistant Counselors, and Junior Counselors, each has its own duties to accomplish that contributed to the success of the camp.
I may not know every detail of the tasks each of the committee was executing during the kamp but I can attest to the noble works of a junior counselor, an assistant senior counselor and a senior counselor.
Being a junior counselor as I can recall, was the most challenging of all. This was literally a 24-hour monitoring with the assigned special kids, attending to their basic needs (feeding, bathing, changing clothes to those that needs maximum assistance and minimum prompting to kids who are independent) while making a difference to their lives. There were times, when luck is on your side, you have to handle 3-4 kids with different conditions and levels of severity all at the same time. If I would be given a choice, I want to go back to being a junior counselor again. My big applause always goes to the junior counselors who chose to spend time taking care of the special children instead of spending the summer in beaches and searching for outdoor fun.
My memories of being an Assistant Senior Counselor was something to cherish. The responsibility was leveled up. The main task was to be the open line of communication between the junior counselors and the senior counselor while monitoring all the kids in the group and uplifting the morale of the junior counselors. You have to see to it that the things for the activites were prepared and the junior counselors are doing their responsibilities. The assistant, the support, the giver.
As I munched the last Tofi Luk from the camp while typing this note, I’m starting to save the memories of CamSur Camp in my treasure box. Being a 1st-time Senior Counselor was definitely an enjoyable one! (minus the moment when a camper had the chance to go out of the vicinity! hahaha!) HEADCOUNT! HEADCOUNT! KULANG TAYO NG ISA!- taking a bath at 1 a.m. and getting up at 5 a.m.
– 2 spoonfuls each for breakfast, lunch and dinner (plus safari, tofi luk and hershey’s chocolates when the need occurs.hehe!)
– uneven skin tone (sobra!)
– 5:30 a.m. jogging with a camper with autism and severe mental retardation (if I refuse, I should be ready to face his tantrums! JOG or TANTRUMS? hahaha)
– irreplaceable hugs and kisses from campers with overflowing salivas (and the love that goes with it)
– the happiness I feel when they’ve performed well in the presentations
– the help, care and concern of co-volunteers
– the midnight laughs on group meetings
– the fulfillment I get when I see the kids strive to accomplish tasks
– the joy I feel seeing them play and have fun like any other normal kids
and the moment I won’t forget.. (7th day in camp)
“Monching, kumain ka na?”
“Opo, Ate! Kumain na po ako. Ikaw, kumain ka na ba? Kumain ka na, Ate Grace. Ang tagal na natin dito, hindi pa kita nakikitang kumakain…”
… and I have to pause for seconds to fight back my tears.
I will see you all next summer camp!
Kudos to the advocates of sharing their lives with the special children!
Ate Grace Vernie Bragado, Batch 2009, Asst Senior Counselor 2010, Senior Counselor 2011