Staff Stories: How a camp changed my life

Staff Stories: How a camp changed my life

Victoria Falls, one of the 7 natural wonders of the world

You’ll have to stay with me all the way to the end on this one because it gets dark in the middle.  I grew up around camps, my parents would run several each year, including an epic annual 2000km round trip with a busload of teenagers across national borders.  So perhaps I was a bit cavalier about camps when it came to my first school camp in Grade 6.  In true African tradition, there were no half measures.  Our school decided to drive us 500km down a highway where six tourists had been recently abducted and killed, to one of the 7 natural wonders of the world, Victoria Falls.  There we swanned around the rainforest, teetering on the edge of an unprotected 120m drop, and had amazing experiences like joining in on the Sunset Booze Cruise on the mighty Zambezi River.   We stayed in cabins surrounded by African wildlife, crocs, hippos and listened to the roar of lions.  So probably quite stressful to supervise!

Lunch stop on the highway north

I suspect this camp-seasoned twelve-year-old spent several days testing the patience of the headmaster who’d accompanied us for the trip.  It all came to a head when we started to head home via Hwange National Park and had the opportunity to stay in some treehouses.  They peered out over an open waterhole where some lions had made a recent kill and all the scavengers of the bush were picking over the carcass of a giant eland.  On the final morning, we were told to stay well away, so my friend and I decided to ignore our instructions and wandered into the kill zone, on the pretext we wanted to pick up a dead vulture.   This was a bridge too far and my headmaster’s punishment was swift and severe.

The lion carcass

So how did this camp change my life?  Well, we went away on a never-to-be-forgotten expedition with the real risk of danger and harm.  And what it taught me was the responsibility our teachers took, to look after us and keep us safe.  At a formative age, it gave us a sense of resilience and confidence we could negotiate the curveballs life threw at us.  It’s a camp that probably wouldn’t take place today, the risk assessment process would be alarming.  However, every week hundreds of parents send their precious children to us at QCCC, and we have a sacred responsibility to look after everyone, ensuring they have a camp that will create great and happy memories for the rest of their life.  And on the odd occasion, a child gets sent home for misbehaviour I’ll have a wry smile on my face, thinking “been there, done that, and look where I am now!”

Andrew Grant (QCCC Director)