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Getting Ready for Camp Series #2: Communication & Homesickness

Welcome back to Camp Gilboa's "Getting Ready for Camp" series of blog posts! As we ramp up towards summer, we will be posting every week with information to help campers and their families prepare for camp.


This week, we'll chat about how families and campers can be in touch during camp, as well as frequently asked questions from parents! Here's what we will cover:

  • Communicating with campers while at camp

  • Care packages policy (flat envelopes only!)

  • How to be in touch with Gilboa staff

  • When you can expect to hear from us

  • Cell Phone Policy (spoiler alert: no phones allowed! Time to get an mp3 player or Ipod.)

  • The Gilboa Blog

  • Homesickness and what to do to prepare

Communicating with Your Camper

Chanichimot (campers) love to get mail. Please write! Keep in mind that it takes 4-7 days for mail to arrive to camp, so write early! You may even want to send the first letter before your child leaves for camp, so they will receive it on the first or second day.


Summer Camp Mailing Address:

Your child's name

Camp Gilboa

P.O. Box 1532

Big Bear Lake, CA 92315-1532


Please do not send packages! You may send flat envelopes only! See below for Gilboa's full package policy.

You can also send emails to: MyCamper@campgilboa.org. We print them and hand them out each day except for Shabbat and special days (such as during tiyul, when we are out on trips).


IMPORTANT: If you're emailing your child:

  • Write your child's name in the subject line.

  • Please do not include any photos or other attachments. We know...you want to send cute puppy photos! We have limited internet at camp, and emails that contain attachments may impede on our ability to use the internet for other important uses such as posting photos on the blog.

The most successful camp experiences occur when a child is fully immersed in camp. Therefore, campers are generally not permitted to make phone calls. Exceptions may be made in consultation with camp director. Please note that phone calls generally do not help when a camper is homesick. If you need to get in touch with your child urgently, please contact camp staff. Please do not send your child with a phone - phones are not allowed at camp.


Packages Policy

  • The only packages* that Camp Gilboa will receive are FLAT ENVELOPES up to 12”x15” for magazines, photos, or books.

    • Small items such as stickers and pens are permitted as long as they fit inside the flat envelope.

    • Packages larger than this will not be accepted and will be returned to sender.

  • Please do not send candy or food! Gilboa staff will open all packages before giving it to your child, and prohibited items will be removed and discarded.

  • Should your child forget an item (e.g. sunscreen, water bottle, or sandals), please write to us to receive approval before mailing these items.

    • Often, camp is able to obtain these items for your child, avoiding the wait and hassle of shipping something to camp.

  • It’s important to set expectations with your camper so please share this policy with them (as well as any other family or friends) ahead of time.

*We will allow exceptions for camper birthdays - bigger packages will be allowed, as long as they do not contain food or candy. Please notify us ahead of time if you will be sending a birthday package.


Getting in Touch with Gilboa Staff

If you have any questions or concerns and wish to talk with us, we will always return your call the same day. Please note that we are in and out of the office throughout the day - attending camp activities and spending time with campers - and do not have internet outside of the office.


Please note that camp is out of cell reception and our communications operate via wifi. The best way to communicate with camp is to send an email, iMessage, or WhatsApp to Alison asking to be emailed or called back, along with the issue you'd like to discuss and the best phone number to reach you. Emails are checked throughout the day, and you will get a response within a few hours.

Contact info:

Alison - alison@campgilboa.org , 215-850-7993

Rebecca - rebecca@campgilboa.org, 562-234-9957

Elana - elana@campgilboa.org , 323-605-8485


For staff phones - iMessage & WhatsApp are best. Texts don't always make it.


Camp also has a landline - we are in the process of switching providers and will let you know the camp landline number as soon as we have it.


When you can expect to hear from us

  • New Campers: If you are a parent of a new camper, you should expect to hear from us within the first two or three days of camp with an update on how your child is doing. Of course, you are welcome to contact us before and request an update. If there are any serious issues, you'll hear from us sooner.

  • Homesickness: If your child is very homesick, we will let you know. We'll call to consult and decide together the best course of action.

  • Time in the health center: If your child is not feeling well, is running a fever, or stays in the health center for more than just a few hours of rest, or requires treatment for an injury beyond basic first aid, we will contact you.

Please note: It is important to be able to contact parents during the camp session. If you are going to be away for any length of time, please keep us informed about how you can be reached or who can act on your behalf in your absence.

Cell Phone Policy

We do our best to create an environment where social interactions, uninterrupted by electronics, thrive. We recognize music as a valuable downtime for some, and even a necessity at bedtime for others. Please plan accordingly and provide your camper with an mp3 player or Ipod if desired. Campers will be allowed to use these devices during free time (chofesh) and at bedtime.

Please note the following limitations that we ask you to relate to your children:

  • Campers will not be allowed to have cell phones at camp. It is best if your child leaves their cell phones at home. We will collect all phones on the day of arrival and distribute them back on the last day of camp.

  • All other electronics (iPads, tablets, laptops, electronic games) should not be brought to camp.

  • E-readers and music devices are allowed at camp.

The Gilboa Blog

The blog will be your access to information about camp activities and camp photos (not too many - our limited internet connection will not allow for that), and will also provide some insight as to what Gilboa and Habonim are all about. At the end of the summer, we will send out all of the camp photos to families!


You can expect a blog update every 2-3 days, with 15-20 camp photos each time. We encourage you to subscribe and follow along! www.campgilboa.org/blog


Homesickness

Being away from home can make any camper feel a little blue. Especially for first year campers, the first day or two sleeping in a new space and meeting new people may cause some homesickness to arise. We would like to emphasize that homesickness is perfectly normal.


Please note that although homesickness is almost always history by the time a parent receives a sad letter, it is best handled by a reassuring and encouraging note from you.


We encourage parents to create a specific plan in case of homesickness with their child to help foster a sense of empowerment and normalize these feelings. If you create a homesickness plan with your child, please email it to us so we can add it your camper's file and inform their counselors. This way, the plan can be used as a tool to refer back to as needed.


Here's how we recommend creating a homesickness plan:

  • Normalize homesickness (“It’s totally natural that this will happen, and most kids feel it at camp in the first days.”)

  • Work on the plan together to provide a sense of empowerment.

  • Make it specific. You want to include a when, where, what. Ask questions that will create a detailed plan.

    • For example, a plan could be: “When I’m feeling homesick, I will talk with my counselor after dinner and will ask them to help me find paper and pen, and I will write a letter to my parent(s). In the letter, I will start by describing the one activity that I enjoyed most today and the one difficult moment that I had today. I will also write about what I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”

  • Other options might be talking to friends, drawing, listening to music, etc. Ask your child to reflect on similar experiences and think about what helped in these cases.

We ask that you share the plan with us (you can send it via email to info@campgilboa.org or give us a call), so that we can provide continuity, reassurance, and a sense of stability, by bringing up the steps that you have agreed on at home.


If you have a strong concern before or during the summer about your child’s homesickness, please contact us to discuss.


Additionally, we find that one of the best ways to prevent new campers from feeling homesick is to gain familiarity with camp! When campers get to know Gilboa specially, it can provide a sense of comfort and ease. For those in the LA area who would like to meet some of the Gilboa staff and other campers, come to our LA pre-camp picnic June 17th! More questions? Visit our FAQ page.


Watch below for a video tour of Gilboa's campsite!


We'll talk to you next week! If you need anything beforehand, reach out to Alison (alison@campgilboa.org) or Elana (elana@campgilboa.org)

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