Going to the camp


Today, when trips to the ‘native place’ are just a part of the nostalgic past, summer camps provide children the much needed getaway. Ashwin Honawar provides some insights.

TILL recent years, camping in India was confined to school students enrolled as Scouts and Guides. Later, camping was something limited to female and male cadets of the National Cadet Corps (NCC). For a vast majority of students, summer camps existed only on American TV serials and cartoons. In fact, camping was considered alien to this culture and viewed upon as an activity enjoyed only by students in the so-called developed world.
Thankfully, this perception has changed over the years; several tour operators singly or jointly with educational institutes in India, conduct summer camps. Priced very affordably, these summer camps help children develop several elements of their character that would otherwise take years to build.

Popularity of summer camps
There are several reasons why summer camps are fast gaining ground in India. The main factor of course remains the innate craze for anything ‘phoren’ that continues to haunt typical Bharatiya nagariks (citizens). Students and their parents somewhat believe this Western practice is beneficial, since TV shows depict summer camps as a glamorous activity.
Rapid urbanisation of India is the second reason for the burgeoning popularity of summer camps. With ties to native villages weakening over the years, the age old tradition of visiting relatives during summer is almost extinct. With both spouses working, parents don’t have much time to take children on holidays to distant destinations during summer vacations.
Given this scenario, students tend to become couch potatoes, glued to TV sets, computers and increasingly now, smart phones. The hot and humid Indian summer serves as an excuse to shun outdoor physical activities for the air conditioned comforts of home.
Given these circumstances, there is an inclination to opt for summer camps rather than spending the entire duration of the vacation at home. Further, there are numer- ous types of summer camps offered by operators across India. Children can select a theme based on hobbies, academic or personal objectives.

Types of summer camps
Many operators across the country offer themed summer camps.
Sports: Sports camps are most popular among Indian kids. This is because taboos and inhibitions related to making a career as a sportsperson has faded over the years. Indeed, playing sports is now viewed as an excellent gateway to get prized jobs in central and state government organisations, and the private sector.
Arts: For students inclined towards making a career in the performing arts as well as fine arts, a variety of themed camps are now offered. Art camps include training sessions, lectures and discussions that teach attendees to modulate their voice, learn or fine-tune their skills in playing a musical instrument, or acquire skills in painting, making portraits, sculptures and photography.
Adventure: Adventure camps rank third on the list of popularity among Indians. Operators take a group of students for trekking, hiking, wild-life spotting and mountaineering camps at select locations in the country. They have excellent arrangements and skilled trainers who accompany students on these adventure tours. However, a student has to prove medical fitness before enrolling for such camps, which is a fair requirement.
Spiritual: In an era where parents are unable to impart knowledge about a particular faith to their children for any reasons, spiritual camps at religious places are also fairly popular today. These camps are generally conducted at retreat centers and in the vicinity of shrines. They include teachings on religious scriptures and participation in ceremonies associated with the faith. Spiritual camps are intended for students who wish to gain insights into customs and traditions associated with their faith.
Tech: As the term suggests, these summer camps are conducted by operators to help students keep themselves abreast with latest advances in Information Technology. Abroad, tech camps also cover some basics of engineering such as maintaining automobiles or civil construction, the trend has yet to arrive on Indian shores though. However, IT related camps are useful for every student who aspires to make a career in this lucrative field.
Educational: Educational summer camps are on a variety of themes. Some operators take students to places of historical interest. Others are held at distant geographical locations to enable students learn about topography and demographics of a place. Yet others involve astronomy and mathematics, among subjects.
Special needs: Operators have special camps for students with special needs. These include camps for visually impaired or the mentally challenged. These camps are highly specialised since trainers and guides are skilled in caring for persons with special needs.

The benefits of summer camps
Summer camps teach children a variety of skills.
Problem solving skills: Since all camps are conducted away from home, students acquire excellent problem solving skills. Children are left to find solutions for problems that do not require serious intervention by adults. Hence, they learn how to resolve problems without depending upon a parent or teacher.
Independence and interdependence: Summer camps give students their first taste of independence, away from parents, and with peers. It enables them to learn that despite independence, human lives are interdependent. This is through group projects, team play and team work included in camp activities.
Acceptance of cultures: Camps sound the death knell for xenophobic behavior among children. Left alone to mingle with peers from different backgrounds and cultures, they develop a sense of acceptance and tolerance. This is very essential for anyone living in a cosmopolitan city or wishes to study at foreign universities in future. Mingling with people of other cultures enables students to appreciate differences.
Social awareness: Thanks to team work and group projects included as part of camp activities, students develop Emotional Intelligence (EI) – a skill that cannot be learned anywhere. EI makes them socially aware about rights and wrongs. It helps them sense mood of the others and respond accordingly. EI is pivotal to developing leadership abilities.
Physical health, survival skills: It goes without saying that summer camps promote better health among students. Since every camp involves many activities, children remain physically active during summer. To some degree, camps highlight benefits of an active life over a sedentary lifestyle.
Children are also taught a lot of survival skills such as dousing fire, rudiments of first aid, swimming, fishing, climbing trees, searching for edible fruits and so on. Camps are often held at locations free of environmental pollution, and hence promote healthier living. They make students aware of differences between a clean, natural habitat, and crowded concrete jungles.
There is also much emphasis on diet. At camps, healthy meals that are nutritious but bereft of high fat and sugars, are served. Consequently, students who attend summer camps develop better dietary habits and control.
Surprisingly, summer camps in India are not priced exorbitantly. Other than the cost of travel to the destination, other expenses are somewhat similar to what a child would otherwise spend at home, including phone calls, electricity utilised for powering a computer and TV, fast food and other modern big-babysitting techniques adopted by working parents. It would be fair enough to say that summer camps are an ideal getaway for students and their parents.

Ashwin Honawar

Ashwin Honawar is a journalist, content writer and blogger based in Mumbai. He has worked as a journalist with reputed newspapers, TV channels and digital media in India and abroad over the last 25 years. He has varied interests and writes on diverse topics.