Enzo Montano, CISV Philippines.
(First published in ’Making our dream a fact : 50 Years of CISV Philippines’)
Being completely new to CISV, I approached the staff position in a Seminar Camp with apprehension. I wasn’t sure where my place was in the scheme of things. Would I be a babysitter, chaperon, tourist guide or worse, utusan? Actually, I was a bit of all of the above – and more.
After going through the Seminar Camp experience, I am full convinced that this programme should go on. The bonds it forms are astounding. Seminar Camp provides an environment where participants can be themselves despite coming from various countries. Normal social rules, albeit most of them self-imposed by teenagers, don’t apply within the camp. The norm is sharing deep personal issues, being friendly with total strangers and sometimes even making a fool of oneself without fear of losing face. And most incredible, forming friendships – deep friendships – within a short period of time. Everything is so intense. You give with intensity; you receive with intensity.
I have witnessed so much growth among the participants within the time we lived together. A timid French boy broke out of his shell and allowed his striking personality to show. A Spanish speaker overcame the language barrier and expressed herself with confidence. A feisty Filipina learned to loosen her grip and became a team player. An outspoken and energetic Belgian finally learned when to shut up. These may be minor changes, but who knows how they will influence future personal growth.
The future – this, I think, is what Seminar camp is for. It is an intensive short course on personal re-evaluation through multicultural immersion that prepares one for the future. During their transition period between high school and university, participants discover many things about themselves and about other people. Armed with new found friends, a much larger global support network and new insights, they are better equipped for the next chapter of their lives.
To me, the best part of Seminar Camp is being in it, being tossed in its wondrous tide. Being a staffer doesn’t set you apart; it makes you another friend to the participants, an integral part of the cross-cultural environment. Of course, as home staff, I had extra duties and had my hands full most days, but that came with the territory. What was important for me was that I was able to help give the participants the camp that they needed and wanted, In turn, that camp also became my camp, my experience. I am proud to say that I have gorged strong bonds and broadened my global network. All this while having a great time! It’s like a win-win situation.