I often find myself thinking that if everyone had gone to E-Nini-Hassee then things would go a lot more smoothly in everyday life, but that was not always my attitude. I came to E-Nini-Hassee with a bad attitude. I remember my initial visit to camp and thinking, “I am so NOT going here.” I walked the trails and saw girls covered in sap and skinning the bark off of trees. They were building tents to sleep in! I thought, “Oh no, not me, forget this!” They sang in dining hall while we were in the office and I thought, “This is a joke, right? They think I’m coming here to do manual labor and sing Kumbaya!?”….. As it turned out, those trees gave me a great sense of accomplishment that translated into confidence and self worth; those songs still bring comfort to me today.
E-Nini-Hassee gave me memories and tools that I will hold near, always. I made bonds with my chiefs and fellow campers that have lasted through years and miles. I spent 12 days with them backpacking the Florida Trail, 21 days canoeing with them on the Withlacoochee / Suwannee Rivers, twice. I spent hours upon hours sitting down discussing problems or standing in huddles with them that let each of us know that, good or bad, we were all in it together.
While I was at E-Nini-Hassee, my best friend died in a car accident. My chiefs and my fellow campers were so important in my grieving process. They helped me cope and make sense out of a situation that made no sense. I am so thankful I was at E-Nini-Hassee through that time because not only did it give me a safe and therapeutic place to grieve and heal, it probably saved my life. I would love to say that I wouldn’t have made the choice to get in the car with her the night she died, however, in reality, I probably would’ve been in the car with her. E-Nini-Hassee gave me the tools and helped build my self-esteem, enabling me to make better decisions in the future.
After I left E-Nini-Hassee, I went back into public school with a better understanding of who I was, what I wanted, and how to achieve the goals I meant to achieve. I was no longer struggling with time management or social awkwardness. I cannot say I did not struggle at all — I did. But the skills I took home from E-Nini-Hassee helped me identify, cope with, and ultimately overcome any struggles or problems I had with my studies or personal life. I still employ those problem solving skills on a daily basis. It also made me aware that there is nothing wrong with me and there is nothing I cannot overcome if I commit myself to finding a way.
I was 15 when I came to E-Nini-Hassee. The world was an angry and apathetic place for me at that time. While there, I was encouraged to express my feelings in healthy ways and to meet my needs with healthy behaviors. I learned about who I was and why I felt the way I did. Most importantly, I learned to communicate in an age-appropriate manner that was respectful and would be well-received. Communication was probably the skill I learned there that has proven most valuable to me. Learning how to speak to others in a way that is well-received has opened many doors for me. My outlook on the world and life in general has changed dramatically since then.
I am now 32. I have two children, I truly love being a mother. E-Nini-Hassee simply works! It teaches leadership, teamwork, confidence, integrity, respect, problem solving and responsibility. It gives you a sense of accomplishment. It builds self-esteem. It gives you a foundation to build a better tomorrow.