I’m willing to bet that everyone working at Chewonki, as a professional or as a volunteer, has more than once heard a parent say, with passion and with gratitude, “You’ve changed my child’s life”. Life changing is a goal of all good educators, perhaps especially those who lead children outdoors in a world that seems so determined to keep them inside. When we change a child’s life – guiding her toward new confidence in herself, her capacities, her understanding of the world of people and nature she is part of – we also change the adult she will become and the worker, community member, citizen, and parent she may one day be.
Over the more than one hundred years Chewonki has been hard at work changing lives, our programs have multiplied and adapted, adjusting to the needs, schedules, and interests of children, teens, and families even as the core beliefs of our pedagogy have remained very much the same. Of course, our teachers and camping staff are mindful of educational and personal goals for our students and campers. And yet, inevitably, in all of our programs through the year, nature happens – and brings with it refreshing, invigorating, surprising, awe-inspiring, and sometimes puzzling challenges and rewards.
A reliable talent of Chewonki’s summer and school year staff is the eagerness with which they prepare our campers and students for nature to happen, and to be ready to greet it – as well as their fellow campers and students, their teachers and counselors – with enthusiasm, curiosity, respect, and joy. Chewonki’s programs teach, as our mission reminds us, appreciation and stewardship of the natural world. That goal is equal to our desire to lead our campers and students toward a greater understanding of what it means to be a worthy community member, often a leader, and always ready and able to learn more about themselves and others.
I came to Chewonki initially for our sons. I have stayed for myself, long ago admitting that while Chewonki is certainly here for the campers and the students on whose behalf so many of us work, it is also here for us, the volunteers and supporters who have chosen to sustain Chewonki’s mission because it makes a positive and potent difference in a challenged world.
I am privileged to be a part of this hard-working team.
Roseanne Saalfield, Board Chair