Keeping myself and the campers safe
The parents and guardians of campers have entrusted you, the other counselors, volunteers and staff with the care of their child for the next few weeks of their lives. They expect you to provide a safe, positive, caring and nurturing environment for their child. Anything less is not acceptable to the parent or to the Tawheed pledge you took.
As a counselor, you want to have a positive and safe experience for the duration of the camp.
How can you balance and manage this heavy load of responsibility?
Let’s take a quick look at what we mean by risk management.
We know that there are risks in everything we do at camp. What we must do is manage those risks to prevent or reduce the possibility that a person could be harmed— verbally, physically, mentally and sexually. At the same time, we should also take precautions to prevent or reduce the possibility that the camp property and its facilities be harmed or damaged in any way.
Listed below are some risk management strategies you will want to use. Remember, it is for your protection as well as for the camper.
- Avoid putting yourself in a one-on-one situation with a camper, out of sight of others. If a camper asks to tell you something in private, step away from the group so they cannot hear the conversation, but make sure they can see you and the camper.
- If a camper needs to be taken to the health center, ask another counselor to watch over your group. Ask two other campers to accompany you and the sick or injured camper to the health center. The extra campers can help give positive reinforcement to the sick or injured camper. More importantly, this avoids putting you in a one-on-one situation with a child out of the sight of others, on both trips to and from the health center.
- Practice appropriate touching. The human touch is an important need for many people; it should be warm, sincere, and with consideration of the individual. There are three safe places to touch a child: on the hand, their shoulder, and their upper back. Never touch a child against their will—ALWAYS ASK THEIR PERMISSION (i.e., “you look like you could use a hug, may I give you one?”).
- Never touch a child in the area normally covered by a bathing suit unless for clear medical necessity and then under the supervision of an adult of the same sex as the child.
- Stay on established trails and roads on the campgrounds. Avoid taking your living group to areas that are “off limits” to you and the campers.
- Control the “horseplay” that takes place in free time, in the cabin, or on the campgrounds. This is when accidents are more likely to happen. If you do not control, limit, or stop the horseplay and a child is harmed (physically or emotionally), you can be found to be negligent in performing your duties.
- Avoid creating an environment where campers can play harmful tricks or jokes on one another. Do not, under any circumstances, play a trick or joke on a camper that has potential for harm (physical, emotional, or sexual). Remember that what is considered harmful to them may be considered playful and insignificant to you. Use extremely good judgment, and make wise decisions.
- No matter how tempting it might be, do not take your group of campers to the swimming pool unless it is your designated time to be there. For obvious reasons, there is a maximum capacity of swimmers at any given time in the pool. Honor that rule.
- If you are certified in first aid and/or CPR, do not give medical care beyond your training and expertise. Call for the camp medical officer to handle those situations.