GLOBAL LEADERS MAKING AN IMPACT AT YMCA CAMPS
STAFF FROM ACROSS THE WORLD SPEND SUMMERS IN UPSTATE NEW YORK
Camp Cory and Camp Gorham offer so much for campers – beautiful scenery, a sense of belonging, friendship, achievement and independence, and memories that will last a lifetime. Something else they offer is a lesson in culture.
Every year, staff comes to camp from all over the world. In 2019, there were 59 people from 14 different countries working at the two overnight camps. Each has their own story to tell of their best camp memories, what they like most about living in upstate New York for the summer, and their favorite food. We got to know some from both camps. Here are their stories.
Daniel Perdomo, or Danny as campers and fellow staff know him as, is from Bogota, Colombia. He’s been coming to Camp Cory for six years.
“I started at a dishwasher in 2013,” said Danny. “Camp Cory now is part of my family and that’s why I come back every summer.”
Danny is a Leadership Director, helping to mold the next generation of counselors at Camp Cory.
“This is just a magical place for me. I realize the impact we have on the kids.”
He loves to share his Columbian culture with campers. He also brought his love of music to camp with him.
“I used to listen to dance music, so I would show the campers that no matter what you’re doing, you need to be smiling and positive all the time,” said Danny. “I show them I can be myself and enjoy this place.”
The summer of 2019 was the first summer at Camp Cory for Emilio Aguila. He is from Mexico City, and learned about the opportunity from his cousin.
“I was really scared of coming and not belonging, but it’s been amazing,” he said. “You see that people are willing to know more about others.”
He said campers immediately start asking him questions about Dia de los Muertos and to teach them words in Spanish. A go-to, is how to say hello and introduce themselves. But Emilio has loved learning just as much about New York state. Even though, when he first heard he was going to “New York,” he didn’t think he’d be in Penn Yan.
“I thought I was going to New York City,” Emilio said with a smile. “I never heard of Penn Yan, but I’m really excited to be here. There’s lots of green grass and trees. And at night you can actually see the stars. In Mexico City that’s something we don’t. I was actually shocked at first. But that’s something I really like about being here.”
Raven Figueiredo grew up in Rio watching movies with camps, always wanting to come to one.
“It is better than I ever imagined,” she said with a smile.
She said a lot of campers will know Christ the Redeemer, and the movie Rio, but what they don’t know is the language she speaks.
“I tell them that I speak Portuguese, I don’t speak Spanish,” she said with a smile. “The only country in South America that doesn’t speak Spanish.”
Raven notices the differences in the languages spoken around camp, and how different people introduce themselves. The biggest difference she also notices is in the food.
“The food is completely different. I like the food here, the waffles and ice cream are my favorite, but I think that’s the only thing I really miss from Brazil because I love our food.”
This was Raven’s first year at Camp Cory, and it’s been great learning experience for her.
“It’s really, really amazing. We’re on the same planet but because we live in different places, things can be completely different.”
Kyle Neil has been working at Camp Cory for three summers. He is from Scotland, where his hometown has a population of about 4,000.
“It’s surprising how many differences there are between two English speaking countries. Sometimes some things still catch me off guard. One of the biggest things is the sure size of everything here.”
Another difference is the slang. He’ll teach some of the kids slang from his country, like “dafty” (silly), and even learn a little from them.
“My favorite thing to do is go like more ‘broguish,’ and speak like I would back home. It catches people off guard. There’s lots of things I don’t understand [here], but I find myself using ‘yeet’ and ‘lit’ too much.”
Kyle loves seeing the transformation in the campers from the time they start, and are sometimes homesick, until they leave and become what he calls “campsick.”
“We’re all coming with this common goal of giving these kids an amazing summer. You’re family with everyone, internationals and Americans as well. We just come together like a big family.”
Daniel Merrell has lived in northern England, near Manchester, his entire life. In the summer of 2019, he got to live in the Adirondacks.
“England is a lot of rolling hills of green, but this is breathtaking. There are so many times I look across the lake and it’s like a photograph. I could be anywhere in the world, but I’m glad I’m here right now.”
He was a counselor at Camp Gorham, and also helps with the high ropes and climbing tower. That’s where he believes he sees the most growth in campers.
“Kids who can’t get up on the first day, they gain the confidence, and by the end do make it up to the top. You see how excited they are, and you realize you helped do that. It changes you as much as it changes them.”
He gets a lot of questions about his accent. Campers want to know if he knows the Queen, and what kind of currency he uses. But he loves learning from the campers, just as much.
“There’s just so many things, the traditions that no one really tells you about that the kids have been doing for years. No one really tells you about it, you’re just sort of a part of it.”
Catherine Duffield grew up in Belfast, Northern Ireland. She loves the outdoors and horses. So for her, working at Camp Gorham these past three summers has been dream come true.
“For me, horses have a little bit of magic about them. You’ll see that whenever the kids come.”
She is a village head and teaches in the horse-riding program. Her heritage is very important to her, and she loves to share it with the kids. And there is one in particular she shares more frequently.
“They ask me if I’m Irish, I’m not Irish I’m from Northern Ireland. We explain that a lot.”
Catherine said the kids keep her coming back every year. She’s created bonds with a lot of them, and with her fellow staff. She even met her fiancé at Camp Gorham.
“Whenever I first came here, I just felt right at home,” she said. “I love the Y’s sense of community.
Here is a look at the countries where all of the 59 staff members are from: