Memories from 2017 Teen Camp in the Netherlands
The Life Teen Summer Camp 2017 was truly an amazing experience. The whole week was full of fun from start to finish, but there was still time for serious reflection, prayer and teaching about our faith, through stories and testimonies of many there, as well as small group discussions and quiet reflection times. It was also a great way to experience different cultures, as there were so many different countries represented within the people there. There were team building activities to get to know people and to form lasting friendships, and many opportunities for free time to mingle together. As well as all the themed and team building activities, there were also opportunities to celebrate everyone’s culture, with “About Our Country” presentations and a talent show at the end of the week. Everyone there was so warm, welcoming and supportive; there was a real sense of “family” that I have only ever experienced at similar events. I would 100% go again, and I encourage anyone else who might be interested to do so too – there is something for everyone and it’s just an all-around enriching and growth experience.
This Summer was the first time that I got to go to Life Teen Camp. It is a Catholic Summer camp for teenagers based in the Netherlands where young people from all over the world come to learn more about their Catholic faith. At first, I wasn’t at all convinced about going but it sounded very intriguing. My older sister was going anyway, and her excitement was contagious, so in the end my curiosity got the better of me. Having a chance to learn more about my faith – as well as not having any parents in tow was an opportunity that I couldn’t refuse! I was bouncing around when I heard there were ‘no parents’ as I felt I could be more responsible and independent. I admit, there were a few moments of panic at the airport where I nearly turned and bolted back to the car. However, my sense of adventure, as well as the thought of warmer weather, and the fact that our group leader was physically shepherding us through security at speed, was enough to get me on the plane. The programme was very structured, but there was still free time to mingle with people and get to know them. Although there were quiet prayerful sessions together with teaching, discussions about faith and various workshops, there were also plenty of ‘team-building’ activities everyday so we could get to know each other. Tuning in to the different accents was hard at first however by the end of the week I had a fluent American accent. I made some really good friends. I was surprised when I realised that Catholic friends are very different to my school friends. It was much easier to talk with other Catholics my own age because we share the same faith and values and our family lives are actually very similar. It was easier to be myself and conversations tended to be much less judgemental and more easy-going. I felt freer when I was with them. I did struggle with one thing – the food! We only got one hot meal a day which alternated between lunch and dinner, while the other meals were bread with cheese, bread with meat (like hams), bread with spreads (like jam, chocolate, peanut butter etc.) or some weird and wacky combinations with traditional Dutch food, like sprinkles …. on bread! Vruchten Slag which was basically rainbow sprinkles, that I personally didn’t like because they tasted like sugar that had gone off, and Hagel Slag was milk or dark chocolate sprinkles that tasted delicious. The novelty of bread and jam for almost every meal quickly wore off and by the second day I was contemplating a James Bond exercise to smuggle some chocolate bars up to my room for midnight snacks. There was a strict rule on not wasting food and everything on our plates had to be cleared. There was a quick family bond formed as food was passed around in a desperate attempt to finish it. My fussy streak was really stretched but I really surprised myself at how adventurous my taste buds became. If I had to pick my two favourite days at camp, they would be the messy days. Filled with boisterous, outdoor activities, these were right up my street. I love adventure and I’m always up for getting muddy. Teamwork was the key on the first day and being paired up with my new friends definitely helped. Raft building, obstacle courses and ‘parkour’ courses were all on the menu of activities. It was as if Christmas had come early as it was everything I love doing, with great people, all packed into one day. The day of the ‘Messy Games’ was aptly named because every activity involved getting soaked, having glitter or shaving cream thrown on us or being dunked in a paddling pool full of mud. It was hilarious and carefree as everyone could just let loose and not have to worry about anything except getting dirty and winning points. Looking back on it now, I see that the whole experience has made me think very differently about the whole Catholic faith. Before, I thought that Catholics just prayed and did boring stuff all the time, but camp showed me that, especially for young people, our faith can actually be really fun. More importantly, I have learned to recognise a new depth in relationships that having a common faith can bring. I’m really glad that I took the opportunity to go as I have gained in confidence and it has encouraged me to pursue more opportunities as you never know what you might miss.