Feb 17, 2016

International Staff on the Shores

As the summer of 2016 fast approaches, we are excited to once again welcome new and returning international staff to the shores of South Tea Lake.

While the majority of Tamakwa’s campers and staff are from North America, each year we welcome Tamakwans from around the world.

From Mexico, across Europe, Israel and all the way from Australia and New Zealand… Tamakawns truly span the entire globe!

But what is the benefit of having Tamakawns from all over? We asked the campers in 2012 and they had a lot to say…. Read more about it in the article below written by Daniel Dupont in the 2012 edition of the South Tea Echo.


Despite its location in the heart of Ontario’s wilderness far removed from human civilization, Tamakwa is home to a surprisingly diverse, international community. During the past summer, in keeping with recent years, there were many international staff members at camp from distant shores.

Nearly two-dozen counsellors, activity leaders, trippers and West Park Catering staff came from far and wide, including Australia, Scotland, England, Germany, Belgium and Mexico. As a fellow staff member and travel enthusiast, I appreciated being surrounded by people reflecting so many different cultures and backgrounds.

I had the distinct pleasure of having tripper Arne Janssens from Belgium lead my four-day canoe trip during the July session. My campers had a great time with Arne, even if they couldn’t always understand what he was saying. This made me wonder: how do campers feel about having staff from overseas at camp? Do they perceive a difference between the international and North American staff? (Like most Tamakwans, I allow American staff to claim temporary Canadian citizenship and not be included as international or foreign staff).

In my zeal to get the perspective from Tamakwans who were not on staff, I first caught up with the campers from Trailblazer 1, who had Louisa Batista from Australia and Hannah Metcalfe from England as senior co-counsellors. Even though this was their first year at camp, these girls adored their foreign counsellors. “Before Louisa, I had never met anyone from Australia,” says Trailblazer camper Jordan Brady. “Although her accent sounded funny, she was so nice and it gave me the desire to visit Australia one day.”

Izzy Jacobson, also from Trailblazer 1, often liked to act as if she’s British as she raised her pinkie finger and pretended to sip from an imaginary cup of tea. “Who am I?” she said in her posh British accent, matching the stereotype of people from the UK.

Asher Raduns-Silverstein, from Ranger 1, has learned a lot about Mexican cuisine from having two counsellors from Mexico, Nissim Teche and Rodolfo Castillo. “Having them in my cabin gave me a better understanding of Mexico,” says Asher. “For example, they told me that tacos in the street are better than the ones in restaurants.” Definitely something to keep in mind the next time he visits Mexico.

His cabin mate Remi Sampaleanu also appreciated having counsellors from Mexico. “It’s very cool to be able hang out with people from Mexico because back in the city I don’t get that chance at school or anywhere else,” says Remi. “It’s also great to see how good Nissim and Rodolfo are at soccer and we even learned some Spanish words from listening to them talk to each other.”

Spending time with counsellors from overseas was an experience shared by Ben Goldstein from Ranger 2, who had Clinton Simmons from Australia as his senior counsellor.

“It’s a lot of fun to hang out with someone from a far away country,” says Ben. “I see a lot of people from different countries back in New York but they just walk by. I’ve always wanted to visit other countries so it’s really cool to be able to meet someone from far away.”

Lucas Lisznianski, a Ranger 3 camper, who went on a three-day fishing trip led by Scotland’s Fraser “Duffy” Duff, also echoes these thoughts. “I don’t get to hang out with people from Scotland often, so this is really cool,” says Lucas. “Duffy told us a lot about his life and things like that. He also explained to us a lot about fishing, and I could understand everything he said despite his accent.” No small thing given Duffy’s thick brogue.

Interestingly, none of the campers I spoke to cited any major differences between having a foreign or North American staff member.

“They do pretty much everything the same as other counsellors except they sometimes use words like rubbish,” says Ben Goldstein when asked if his counsellor did anything different or that seemed ‘weird.’

There are occasional challenges having staff who speak English as a second language. “Sometimes it’s hard to understand what Nissim said,” says Remi. “But in the end, we always understood each other, especially if we were patient with each other.”

Having staff members from various parts of the globe enriches the camp experience for everyone. It broadens horizons and increases understanding and makes the world a friendlier place. Not bad for a summer camp in Algonquin Park.

The South Tea Echo is our annual Newspaper featuring articles from Campers, Staff and Alumni! Click here to see the full list of publications. This particular article is from the 2012 edition.

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