Camp Cando 2018
New kids, new leadership, same values, same fantastic outcomes and an important lesson in culture and transformation from an unexpected place
Last week I did my, now annual, pilgrimage to the woods in Kent to help the dedicated team at Camp Cando look after a number of young adults with “complex needs”. Complex in as much as many of them have fairly seriously special and behavioural needs and are largely non-communicative in the traditional sense. This year I was accompanied by a number of the Astro team, with two new apprentices, Jack Tomkinson and Nathan Lee, joining returning volunteer Ryan Jones. They all did a number of days to help augment the support team at ‘Camp’.
I have written about Camp, and my admiration for people like Steve Smith MBE, who has been involved for nearly 30 years before, but it is of such importance to give this small, but brilliant effective charity some much needed exposure I felt compelled to talk more about it. To me the Camp experience is more than helping this amazing charity, it also provides insights and comparisons into business life which I reflect on when I have come away.
To be clear, while I am usually always thinking about work in some capacity, the week spent in the woods, and at the zoo, and the seaside is ALL about the kids. When you are there you are 100% there, you have no choice. We swap management meetings for low ropes in the woods, customer presentations for singing round the camp fire and supplier lunches for feeding those kids with reduced ability and helping them undertake simple, physical tasks – and I love every minute of it. The value that camp brings to these young and challenged lives is mind blowing, not to mention the break it gives their parents and carers. To see them smile and laugh, despite their challenges, brings a warm fuzzy feeling even to someone as emotionally stunted as me. The importance of this charity to me and the whole Astro team has compelled me to put in a link for donations at the end of this blog.
So what else did I learn this week? Well, I learned that I don’t fit in the caterpillar ride in the amusements at the seaside. I leant a new joke… “How do porcupines kiss? Ouch! ” (I think you had to be there!) and I learned that transformation in any organisation of any nature can, and will, be a success if everyone there is ‘in it’ for the right reasons. For the greater good or Uberman as it is known in certain circles. I don’t believe that is limited to care organisations.
Camp is going through a period of transformation, there is a new generation of leaders taking over from a long-established team. Many of the new guys have been with Camp for many years, working their way thought the ranks as volunteers and helpers and have arrived at a point where by they can take on more responsibility for the success of Camp. As they take on their new roles they are being instructed, encouraged, allowed to make mistakes and given the space to bring their own style and thinking to proceedings – largely, with positive results. Previous leaders and organisers are remaining as volunteers, almost as if it has a lifecycle of its own.
This year Camp went really well. Yes, there are never enough volunteers, there is never enough money and rarely enough hours in the day, but it was a success if you measure success by the outcome and the experience of the youngsters. Memories were made, lessons were learned and new experiences were well… experienced. But what stood out for me aside from all of this was the fundament principle of why everyone is there; the binding agent that ensures success through transformation. Regardless of the fact that people are exhausted, it can be stressful, loud, relentless and at times just plain nasty, the underpinning reason for its very existence is the enjoyment, safety and engagement of the young people. This trumps ego, politics and anything else that might get in the way of its success.
It is the very embodiment of exactly what organisational culture should be about and in my opinion positive organisational culture will support or underpin transformation in any organisation.
Maybe what prompted me to look deeper at Camp was the fact that I returned to work to learn that Astro was in the top 20 of “SME Cultural Leaders” in the UK as researched by Real Business & Business Advice publications. Naturally, I was delighted, culture is so very important to me in as much as it can be defined as “simply the way we do things around here…” but it was an interesting parallel for me. If everyone in an organisation can be encouraged into thinking in the way that the team at Camp Cando think, given the challenging environment in which they do it, then the world would be a far less complicated and more effective place. Business would remove their self-sabotage imposed obstacles and success would come more readily.
I can’t wait to get back to Camp next year. People who volunteer talk about “post Camp blues”, and it is very real. Normality brings with it a world of comfort and quiet unattainable in that week in the woods, but rarely does it provide an opportunity to make such a significant difference to such important young people so directly. I look forward to even more of the Astro team getting involved next year.
I will take from Camp some bruises, some very fond memories and some valuable lessons, but many of those children, parents and carers will have benefited from something far more fundamental than all that.
About Camp Cando
Camp Cando is a grass roots voluntary organisation for young people with a complexity of special and behavioural needs. Every year we give a group of young people the opportunity to spend a life enhancing and fun week away from home in the summer. Our team of helpers ensure an excellent standard of care and attention to meet the campers’ individual needs. The week provides well deserved respite for the parents and carers and family members of these amazing teenagers.