Every day (except Sunday), the post office in Fairlee delivers at least three enormous bags of mail to the Aloha Foundation’s main office. Sometimes there are more than three, but it is a given, that there will be an enormous bag each for Aloha, Hive and Lanakila, bursting with letters to campers and counselors from family and friends. Yesterday there were two bags for Lanakila, two bags for Aloha Hive and one for Aloha. In addition, there are bins of inter-camp mail to be delivered, written to siblings at another camp, affectionate missives from one counselor to another and simple notes to arrange plans with another camp department for multi-camp gatherings. Sorting the mail in each camp’s office takes nearly an hour.
Yesterday, both USA Today and the New York Times discussed traditional summer camps and what kinds of communication campers have their parents. Although a majority of summer camps still require campers to communicate the old-fashioned way, with pencil and paper, nearly 25% of camps allow parents to email their children, and in some cases check in by cell phone. For some “helicopter parents,” the inability to check in daily with their child might preclude a camp that is technology-free. For many parents, however, a child’s chance to negotiate their camp experience without the presence of mom or dad to solve problems, is a gift. Children learn the tools and skills to work through conflicts and challenges, feeding a sense of empowerment and self-esteem.
Many alumni of Aloha, Hive and Lanakila treasure the letters their parents saved; my letters written home from Aloha Hive in the summers of 1973-1975 are written in somewhat sloppy, loopy handwriting on orange lined stationery printed with my name on the top. I write about Mississippi Mud Night, my fun tent-mates, a trip to the summit of Smarts Mountain and the blueberries we found there. I too have saved six summers worth of letters from my Lanakila viking. The letters written when he was in Brookside are very affectionate, and included drawings done on his bed during rest hour and an occasional pressed leaf he thought I would like. Letters written from Lakeside were more matter-of-fact, and included requests for his lunch on Show Weekend.
What kinds of letters do you receive from your camper? Have you had the experience of receiving an upsetting letter from camp, but found that by the time you received the mail, the crisis had been resolved? Are you saving your child’s letters? We are curious about whether Aloha Camps parents value, as much as we do, the slower pace and “time-space continuum of snail mail.”