The Anecdote to Our Crisis of Loneliness? Camp WeHaKee!
Although a situation that is not a surprise to many, the United States Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy has been raising the alarm on the public health crisis of loneliness, isolation, and lack of connection in our country (see more at Surgeon General’s Advisory on Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation). Dr. Murthy shared “Our epidemic of loneliness and isolation has been an under-appreciated public health crisis that has harmed individual and societal health. Our relationships are a source of healing and well-being hiding in plain sight – one that can help us live healthier, more fulfilled, and more productive lives. Given the significant health consequences of loneliness and isolation, we must prioritize building social connection the same way we have prioritized other critical public health issues such as tobacco, obesity, and substance use disorders. Together, we can build a country that’s healthier, more resilient, less lonely, and more connected.”
At Camp WeHaKee we have certainly seen a significant increase in relationship challenges among youth and young adults, even before the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic interrupted our lives. But we have also seen the profoundly positive impact that overnight camps such as ours to help our campers overcome their sense of loneliness and isolation. WeHaKee has the unique power to address the epidemic of loneliness in several ways by providing unique environments that foster social connections and personal growth. Here are some ways we at WeHaKee contributes to addressing loneliness among our girls and y oung women:
- Community Building: WeHaKee intentionally creates a sense of community by bringing together individuals from wide variety of diverse backgrounds. Campers live, eat, and participate in activities together, fostering a strong sense of belonging and connection.
- Face-to-Face Interaction: We provide an opportunity for face-to-face interaction, which is crucial in an era where digital communication often dominates. Engaging in real-world, interpersonal relationships can help combat the isolation associated with loneliness.
- Team Activities: Our camp programs include team-building activities and group challenges that encourage collaboration and cooperation. These experiences promote a sense of shared achievement and camaraderie among our campers.
- Skill Development: Camp WeHaKee offers nearly 40 activities that encourage skill development and personal growth. Learning new skills and accomplishing challenges boost self-esteem and provide a sense of purpose, again reducing feelings of loneliness.
- Nature Connection: We are situated in a beautiful natural setting along the shores of Hunter Lake in northwest Wisconsin. Our site provides countless opportunities for campers to connect with the outdoors. Nature has been associated with improved mental well-being and can offer a peaceful and rejuvenating environment for reflection and connection.
- Peer Support Networks: The WeHaKee experience is able to effectively facilitate the formation of peer support networks. Campers form many lasting friendships, and the shared experience of camp creates a network that extends beyond the camp itself – across the country and throughout the world!
- Emphasis on Inclusivity: WeHaKee is committed to creating environments that emphasize inclusivity and acceptance. This helps individuals feel valued and appreciated for who they are, reducing the sense of isolation that contributes to loneliness.
- Counselor Guidance: Our trained camp counselors play a crucial role in providing emotional support and guidance. Having positive adult role models and mentors can help campers navigate challenges and build resilience.
- Digital Detox: By encouraging a break from constant digital connectivity, WeHaKee provides a chance for campers to be present in the moment and engage fully with their surroundings and peers, fostering more meaningful connections. Many campers share that despite their initial reluctance to let go of their devices, they eventually came to appreciate the freeing aspect of stepping away from constantly being connected.
- Emotional Expression: WeHaKee incorporates many creative and expressive activities, allowing campers to share their thoughts and emotions. Art, music, and storytelling can serve as outlets for self-expression and emotional connection.
It may seem at times that our children and youth are facing insurmountable challenges, but at WeHaKee time and time again we have consistently seen the exceptional resiliency that our children and youth possess. Their ability to overcome these challenges to not only survive, but to thrive is simply remarkable! It is highly reassuring seeing our campers find new and insightful ways to persevere! And an experience at WeHaKee only enhances their abilities to flourish and continue to grow in fascinating ways!