California – San Berndardino Mountains: UCLA Unicamp

Julia Zhu

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

I volunteered with UCLA Unicamp, UCLA’s official student charity. The camp is hosted at Camp River Glen located in the midst of the San Bernadino National Forest, between Big Bear and Redlands. Every summer, volunteers raise money to bring underprivileged kids from the greater Los Angeles area to a week of camp and what we call “woodsey magic”.

 

Why did you choose to volunteer with Unicamp?

I first heard of UCLA Unicamp my second year at UCLA, and every single person that I talked to about it shared only positive sentiments. I decided to join because I had never personally been to camp as a child, and I wanted to see what it was all about whilst helping underprivileged children experience it too. In addition to connecting with children around the greater Los Angeles area, being able to share camp with so many fellow UCLA Bruins made the experience that much more rewarding.

 

Does this organization have a UCLA connection?

Yes! UCLA Unicamp is UCLA’s official student charity and it operates as an independently funded non-profit organization sending hundreds of kids to camp each summer.

 

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

An adjective that people often describe Unicamp is “magical,” and I didn’t really understand why until I finally experienced camp for myself. Being up at camp and interacting with all the kids really opened my eyes to the capacity of service and pushing boundaries against all odds. Our job as volunteers is to make camp as enjoyable and influential for the kids as possible, but it is definitely not a one-way road. The maturity and resilience of some of the children who come from difficult backgrounds is truly remarkable – I may have learned more from them than they learned from me. Camp is magical because it is a place where kids can be whoever they want to be with no one and nothing stopping them, which may sound cliché, but is exactly what some of them need.

 

Did you experience any culture shock during your volunteering?

I did not really experience any drastic culture shock during my week at camp, but I’ve gained a deeper appreciation for the opportunities and privileges that I had growing up. Actually, I was pleasantly surprised at the lack of culture shock, because though we had so many people from different backgrounds, volunteers and campers alike, none of these differences were really relevant or noticed. Camp unifies people and that’s why it’s so special.

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