California – San Bernardino Mountains: UCLA Unicamp

Addy Nunes

What organization did you volunteer with and where were you located?

I volunteered with UCLA Unicamp, which is an awesome way for kids to experience a week long summer camp in the San Bernardino Mountains at our site, Camp River Glenn. Even though the camp site is in San Bernardino, the kids come from all over Los Angeles, and my fellow volunteers are mostly current or past UCLA students.

 

Why did you choose to work with UCLA Unicamp?

I chose to be a part of UCLA Unicamp as a freshman because I thought it looked fun and that it would allow me to be more involved on campus. Four years later, I have continued to do Unicamp for so much more than those original two motives. Unicamp has allowed me to meet and learn from a wide variety of different people, all with different backgrounds and life stories. It has opened my eyes to other walks of life, all while allowing me to give the campers a week that they would not be able to experience elsewhere.

 

Does this organization have a UCLA connection?

Unicamp is UCLA’s official student charity. The organization has been in existence for 80 years now, and has proven to be one that brings students who participate together not only as camp counselors, but as friends.

 

How did your experience influence you? What knowledge or insights did you gain during your time of service?

The number one lesson I have learned from being a part of Unicamp has been to not judge a book by its cover. I have always thought of myself as an extremely open minded individual, but Unicamp has challenged me even further. Every camper I have ever had has surprised me in some way or another, from the kid who didn’t even want to talk to anyone on day one who became an extremely strong leader by the end of the week to the always smiling kid who was trying to forget about a problem at school but never wanted to complain. Every camper is unique in his or her own way and has the potential to go far in life. The same can be said for my fellow volunteers. Never have I met such a group of incredible leaders coming together for a common cause; even if it’s for only one week, their service has made a lifetime impact.

 

Did you experience any culture shock during your volunteering?

Two main “shocks” really stand out to me during my Unicamp experience. The first is that for some campers, the week is the first time that they have ever been out of the Los Angeles area. It is the first time that they have been in nature, seen the stars, or been away from the constant pull of technology. Camp allows them to not worry about how many “likes” on Instagram they receive, but rather see a shooting star for the first time or be able to challenge themselves by climbing the Alpine Tower. Seeing how excited they are with these new experiences shows me that I really shouldn’t take anything for granted. The other “shock” is the fact of how quickly some of the kids have been forced to grow up. They have so many responsibilities in school and within their families for one reason or another. So many of them are incredibly brave and mature. It is great to be able to give the campers a week where they are able to relax and to focus on just being a kid.

 

What was a typical day like for you?

This past summer I had the privilege of being a W.A.L.L. (Wilderness Adventures in Leadership & Learning) Advisor. During my week at camp, I, along with my two co-counselors, was able to take thirteen high school students on a backpacking trip to the tallest peak in Southern California, Mt. San Gorgonio, which is quite a feat for 15-17 year olds. On the days during our hike, we did just that – hike. And even if walking for four days may sound boring, it in no way was. We were able to experience nature in a way that most of them had never seen and conquer our goal of reaching the summit. The kids were amazing and extremely tough (both physically and mentally), and I could not have asked for a better experience.

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