Over the next few weeks, as we get closer to the start of kayitz (summer) 2018, I wanted to write a little bit about the upcoming season in order to highlight some of our new initiatives, and generally you give a sense of our thinking and approach to this summer. For today, I want to discuss our first and most important priority: the health and safety of our campers. You are sending us your children, and you are trusting us to care for them. We take that trust seriously, and we are deeply engaged, every year, in improving our policies, procedures and training in the area of health and safety. Here are a few things going on this summer:
Policy Change Regarding Nighttime Supervision
This summer, from the moment campers return to their bunks after evening activity, there will be one staff member inside every single bunk every single night. In the past, we have had one staff member cover two bunks, so this change doubles the amount of supervision during the nighttime hours. (The curfew for staff who are not in the bunks for that night has not changed.) Having spent time talking to other camps, to experts in the field, and having listening to our own staff and campers over the past two summers, I believe strongly that this change is an important step in our continual effort to provide effective and sensitive supervision for our campers. For our returning campers, this will be a change in their camp experience, so please share this new policy with your campers. I am, of course, happy to discuss this policy with parents or kids as the summer approaches.
We continue to evaluate and upgrade our security protocols on the basis of the assessment we conducted last year with the help of an outside security consultant. We have added additional security cameras, loudspeakers and roving private security personnel, most of whom are off-duty law enforcement officers. We have continued to build our strong relationships with Troop K, our local branch of the New York State Troopers, and we will once again be using One Call Now to alert our community in the event of an emergency. Our security training and procedures are under continual revision with the help of our consultants, and we will drill our staff during staff week using their guidance and expertise.
We are asking you to help us maintain our safe community. Please do not send packages to camp. (Note: this includes padded envelopes. We cannot accept anything larger than a letter without prior notification.) Like last summer, if your camper runs out of something and you need to send it to us, please contact Camper Care (email@example.com) to let us know it’s coming. In addition, we as (like last year) that you register in advance if you are planning to attend Yom Hachnasat Orchim (Visiting Day, July 15th).
Preventing Abuse and Harassment
Sometimes it seems like every day brings new disturbing revelations about institutions and individuals who have violated the trust of parents and children in the most terrible of ways. We seek to prevent the abuse or harassment of any member of our community, including both campers and staff. Our aim is simple: to make our Camp as safe as it can possibly be for everyone who steps onto our grounds. To that end, we have contracted with Sacred Spaces, an organization whose mission, in part, is to provide, “Jewish institutions with the professional services necessary to develop robust policies and training to prevent opportunities for abuse.” We believe that our existing policies, procedures and training are quite good in this area already (our work is subject to several layers of oversight, including from the American Camping Association and the State of New York) but we also know that there is more to learn and more we can do. We are proud to be the first summer camp in the country to work with Sacred Spaces to improve our efforts in this vital area. Child safety experts from Sacred Spaces will evaluate our written policies and training modules, and they will make a site visit to Camp this summer to evaluate our program in action. We look forward to working closely with Sacred Spaces as we continue to create a safe and caring community.
At The Forefront of Safety
Over the past few summers, in keeping our ongoing efforts to improve the health and safety of campers at Camp Ramah in the Berkshires, we have been engaged in an ambitious project, under the direction of Dr. Cliff Nerwen and Dr. Phil Levy, to track head injuries that occur at Camp. (This effort coincided with a new set of head injury safety protocols and procedures that were put in place several summers ago and remain in force.) The goal was to better understand when and where head injuries at Camp occur so we could potentially make changes to reduce the incidence of injuries, and improve safety in camp. The results of that study have been very interesting, and, in fact, the resulting research was accepted for presentation at the recent conference of the prestigious Pediatric Academic Societies. We gleaned some interesting lessons from this study, including the fact that head injuries are equally distributed between girls and boys and that the two most common locations for a head injury are the sports fields (with no particular sport being more common) and in the bunks. This last piece of data, in fact, helped inform our decision (noted earlier in this email) to change our supervision policies in the evening. We also found that the vast majority of head injuries at camp (over 90%) are mild, with the campers returning to regular activities within 24 hours. As medical science continues to advance in this area, we are proud to be doing important work to improve the safety of our campers, and, as the acceptance of our study by the PAS shows, we are thrilled that work we are doing may help improve camper safety far beyond our camp community.
Safety and security at Camp can be hard to talk about, because it sometimes means imagining the worst. But it is important to me that you, our community of parents and guardians, understand the extent to which we take these issues seriously. We are continually evaluating our policies and procedures, and we are constantly working to be at the cutting edge of these vital areas. Keeping children safe is the foundation of everything that we do, and we spent a lot time this year (as we do every year) checking that foundation and making improvements if we saw a need. I thank you for reading this lengthy message, and I invite you, as always, to contact me with any questions you may have.
I promise: my next email will be way more fun!