With the pressure of the ‘real world’ looming, university students are constantly reminded that they need to build their resume, develop hard skills, and position themselves for what’s to come after they graduate. Those who have spent a summer as staff at camp know that being a camp staff is actually the best experience anyone can have to help prepare them for the future. Camp staff learn how to manage people, how to work collaboratively, and how to juggle a thousand responsibilities at one time. More so, camp staff get to practice creativity, responsibility, and quick-thinking! It is no wonder why our dedicated staff return to camp summer after summer.
Over the past eight years, our university aged staff have been offered the opportunity to be camp staff AND be involved in a more traditional internship opportunity to help fill the time between school ending and camp beginning. The Camp George Internship program has made it possible for staff to return to camp while also building their resume and developing skills in their field of interest. While we had several internships scheduled for this summer, COVID-19 had different plans and most internships were cancelled.
Fortunately, one internship continued. Aaron Malka, a third-year camp counselor and student at Wilfred Laurier University, was hired to intern at Hamilton Jewish Family Services. When the global pandemic hit, HJFS pivoted to think about how to still serve its clients, and Aaron took on the important role of helping them!
Over the past month, Aaron has been busy packing food bags and delivering them to ‘curbside’ to clients. With so many vulnerable clients isolated in their homes, Aaron has helped to create programs to keep people connected. Working mostly with seniors Aaron has worked on trivia programs, Jewish sing-alongs, and engaging speaker series. He even had the opportunity to share his own story about his time at Camp George! Aaron’s work has included working on HJFS’s social media presence and working with volunteers.
There is no question that COVID has had an impact on Aaron’s work and that of the agency. With physical connection no longer possible, the agency has had to work hard to find other ways to keep people connected. Working with Jewish Hamilton’s most vulnerable communities, Aaron shared that ‘the work of the agency is so important and what our clients look the most forward to – now being isolated and without technology, finding ways to stay connected is even more important than it has ever been.’ Aaron has seen how the numbers of those in need has grown even in the short time he has been interning.
With the goal of one day putting his psychology and business degree into practice by becoming a psychotherapist, Aaron knows that the experience he is getting is invaluable. He also says that he couldn’t do any of it without the experience he has had working at camp over the past two summers – he attributes his ability to work with different age groups, his leadership skills, and the ability to problem solve to his time at camp.
Here are some thoughts from Aaron:
The work that I get to be doing here at HJFS is nothing but satisfying, seeing as I get to help the community and learn about the mental health field at the same time. The impact I have been able to make here by assisting our clients through food bank deliveries and community programs is exactly the field of work that I have always dreamed of working in. It truly is a pleasure to be able to assist my community while also acquiring the experience I need to further my career in the mental health field. I have to give an immense amount of credit to Camp George for not only referring me to this amazing agency but also giving me the tools and experience to thrive in a work environment such as this. Without my camp experience, I wouldn’t be the person I am today, and I am extremely grateful to Camp George for everything they have given me.
We are so proud of the work Aaron is doing and so grateful to Hamilton Jewish Family Services for welcoming Aaron as part of their team!