On May 15th, 2021, the Mexican Camp Association held its annual spring conference – Taller Anual de Campamentos (TAC 2021). One presenter shared trans-Atlantic news and greetings. Carolina Fleix-Wright runs (English Summer) in the Catalonia Region of Spain. As the attachment indicates, their campaign in Spain took the form of Yes, We Camp! and their collective effort has resulted in positive success there. Stronger Together.
Carolina Fleix is an ICF member of the board and the CEO and co-owner of English Summer S.A, a family-owned company that has been teaching English in Residential Summer Camps in Spain since 1980. It owns four camps, an agency that promotes Overseas Courses, School trips and educational stays, as well as the brand “Edulonia”, that offers educational and leisure activities for schools and groups at their premises.
The importance of Associationism in the face of difficult times. Creation of ANEACAMP an association that was born by the urgency of resolving the future of the Camp Collective in the face of a COVID-19 pandemic. Faced with the great crisis Entrepreneurs of the sector, employers and associations of different autonomous communities of Spain came together to press the government and be heard. Once we knew we could open on the summer 2020 with the complexity of a new Health and Safety protocol, how we adapted in just 1 month to be able to operate. To finish the presentation with an update on what the Camps will look like this Summer 2021 with a slightly more flexible protocol that they just published in the official government’s doc a few days ago.
Carolina’s speech, delivered on-line from her summer camp in Prades, Spain
Thank you for having invited me to this event and above all for being the First Plenary Session. I hope to be able to share with you my passion for Camps and let all attendees fill you with my energy for the whole event.
We’re all here for a cause, Camps. Whether you are here as a Camp Director, Counselor, Advisor, Lifeguard etc. We are all eager to be with our colleagues and our campers who so deserve to be able to enjoy the free time, nature, leave their comfort zone and ultimately live some experiences that will mark them for the rest of their lives.
We’ve been through something too hard to imagine, a pandemic caused by the Covid-19. A pandemic that caused a stop in our lives, without being able to go out on the street, be with our loved ones, work, travel, accompany the sick, etc. We’ve all had a hard time, I’m sure that we all have family or friends who were infected with Covid or some who were very sick, unemployed, socially and emotionally affected. It’s been a tough time but we’ve also experienced moments of generosity and camaraderie.
The community of Camps through ICF (International Camping Fellowship) association was very close, more than ever. As ICF Ambassador in Spain and a member of the board I have been in contact with Camp owners and Directors from many parts of the world using our WhatsApp group, and through virtual connections with Zoom to keep up with the situation in each country. It was sad to know that many countries weren´t able to operate, and we were very happy to share news from those which finally could.
On the other hand, in Spain an unexpected phenomenon occurred and I say this because here competition is very intense, nobody wants to share in case they copy. During this pandemic a group was created in telegram, under the name “Collective of Camps” we were more than 500 members connected, sharing media news, acting as a lobby, joining in the protests towards the government for lack of help etc. Since we do not depend on tourism or education many times government forgets that we exist. In Spain, being divided by autonomous communities with their own competence in many matters, such as the regulation of leisure activities for children and young people, it was an even more difficult matter. Each community has different regulations, and each were creating a different protocol. But thanks to this collective we were heard and the financial aid for Camp owners and workers arrived. That is when the group decided to create the Spanish association “ANEACAMP” (National Association of Free time Activities and Camps” which was officially constituted at the end last Summer and since then has been very active. Although it has been less than 1 year, they have achieved many benefits for the partners that grow in number every day.
Now comes the most difficult part, we are presented with the protocol, in our case in Catalunya where we have our Camps, we depend on the Generalitat de Catalunya specifically General Director of Youth. We had only one month to adapt our camps to the new regulations. HELP!! How can we do that in such a short time?
Let’s get to work! and thanks to Microsoft Teams (And in case you thought about it, they are not the sponsors of the event!) We contacted our management team who were at home to help us out. Working as a Team we connected on the chat, videoconferences and sharing documents online we started distributing work to do:
- Communication with customers to explain the protocol and let them know that it is safe to go to camp.
- Adapt the camp facilities: bedrooms, dining room.
- Purchasing Department: new health material, gels, masks etc.
- Adapting the Camp management computer program: check-in online, forms, program, timetables.
- English Program: Native teachers, timetable, classrooms.
- Activities Program: Sports with less contact, new activities, emotional games.
- Infirmary: New duties, extra care, on-line doctors.
- Posters and other Signs material on safety and hygiene measures.
- Arrival day check-in, online tutorial with parents, virtual closing ceremony and check-out on the last day.
After all the effort, our campaign was ready YES, WE CAMP! The truth is that it was a success we had 2,045 students in total among the 4 camps, which started on June 21st and ended on September 5th. (just so you can compare in 2019 we had 3,639 in total). Everything worked smoothly, we only had 1 case of a child who on the second day was called by his parents who had received a health call to warn that a friend of his was infected and because of that he had to be tested as well as the other 9 children of the capsule and their counselor. They all had to leave the center as a precaution and quarantine. We emailed the rest of the families and when they had the results 3 days later, they were all negative. This happened in early summer and we had no other incidents.
At the end of summer after receiving parent surveys and many thank you emails and calls, we thought: This is the reason why it’s all worth the effort.
In all the centers on last night we celebrate what we call “Friend’s night”, everyone has the opportunity to say goodbye and give thanks to staff and friends. We had a 9-year-old boy who got up and told everyone that he had suffered bullying at his school and that he had no friends at school. He said he was very grateful to his parents for sending him to our camps that now he believed in Magic and said: Magic exists at English Summer Camps, here anything is possible!
Finally, I just wanted to tell you that although after the Summer again we had another lockdown, schools closed again and consequently we were not able to have Autumn or winter Camps. We have been closed without being able to give work to many families and without them this could not be possible. That’s why we’re so glad that the government has finally allowed us to reopen our centers this spring and last week we had our first schools.
Also last the new protocol for this Summer is more flexible in many aspects like, larger groups are allowed to interact, no temperature checks anymore, no space between children of the same group in the dining area, etc. This weekend in Prades all our Camp directors and staff are here on our training weekend, so we all want to send you a virtual hug and we are here to tell you that we are ready for Summer Camps! What about you?
Greetings to all and thank you very much.