Here we publish three posts from our guest blogger the Macedonian Kid, about the YMLP camp! Enjoy!
Chants, core values, s’mores and rough camping.
If you know what those four things have in common that means you have been to the Young Men’s Leadership Project (YMLP).
For those of you who haven’t had the chance to be there, you need to know that at YMLP we love chanting ALL THE TIME, our 7 core values are our Bible and we love going rough camping and eating s’mores.
Because of that, I decided to make a series of posts to introduce you to some of the best things we have at camp and get you closer to the action called YMLP.
I’m going to start with my personal favorite – the chants.
At YMLP, before every meal and every big activity, we have this thing called lineup. All 8 teams would line up next to each other (usually at the basketball court) to hear what’s gonna happen next at camp from the camp coordinators.
ANNOUNCEMENTS, ANNOUNCEMENTS, ANNOOOOOOOUNCMENTS!!!!!
After all the announcements are done, each team, one by one, would go and chant their chants.
See, on day one, every team is given a couple of hours to come up with their team name, flag and a chant that will represent their team during the week so the campers would start from day one to work as a team. Some decide to do a parody of a popular song, some choose something new and catchy and some just yell (well, most of us do that).
Every team has one. In the beginning, they’re usually short and not in sync and campers think it’s weird but by the fourth day, everyone is chanting every single word and starting to lose their voice. Everyone just loves them!
This year, I was the Counselor-in-Training (CiT) for the RED team, and as soon as we went over the rules, we got together and started to come up with our stuff.
First order of business – our name. We had a few good suggestions but we decided to call ourselves – Fire Nation, inspired by the Avatar animated series but don’t ask me what that means and why we chose that name because I don’t know the first thing about Avatar.
For the flag and chant, we decided to divide and conquer.
Those who were good with drawing went to come up with the flag, and the rest of us stayed to think of a chant.
As a CiT, I decided to leave the campers to come up with a chant but after an hour of a few unsuccessful tries, I took matters in my own hands. Remember the song “Country Roads”?! Well, we changed a few words and came up with the best chant at the camp this year.
“Almost midnight, Shula Mina,
Red Fire Nation, Krushevo City,
Life is hot there, hotter than the sun,
Colder than the mountains, worries we got none.
YMLP, take us home,
To the place, we belong,
Shula Mina, Mountain Mama,
Take us home, YMLP”
Since the very beginning, everyone started singing it along with us. What can beat a campfire song at a camp?
Our short chant was: “WHO ARE WE?! FIRE NATION!!!! WHAT DO WE DO?! BURN, BURN, BURN!!!”
Pretty cool, right?!
The purple team had a nice remix of “Old MacDonald Had a Farm”, the green team did a parody of “We Will Rock You”, the white/vanilla team had a nice vanilla scoop at the end of their chant… All in all, we had great chants this year!
What makes this chanting thing even cooler is seeing everyone, no matter what team they’re in, chants all the time. It takes a while to become used to all the yelling and noise at the lineup, but once the campers get the memo, you can’t stop them.
That’s not all, tough – teams are not the only one to have a chant. All the coordinators, facilitators and staff have their own.
Every time our program coordinator Steven would start his announcements we chanted: “He’s Steven, he is quirky!” He hated it in the beginning but got used to it since he had to hear it all the time!
The counselors had their own chants from last year: “COUNSELORS ARE WHAT?! DYNAMITE!!! COUNSELORS ARE WHAT?! DYNAMITE!!! TICK, TICK, TICK, TICK, TICK – BOOOOOM DYNAMITE!!!”
This year, we chanted “CALORIES, CALORIES, CALORIES” when the lineup would go too long and we just wanted to eat, haha.
“LEAVE NO TRACE” and “WASH YOUR HANDS” were also an integral part of our lineups.
When someone (mostly Connor, our lead counselor) would say: “Sounds good?” Our answer was always: “SOUNDS GREAT!” And you were always feeling AWESOME at camp!
I can go on and on about all of our chants but you get my point, right?
We love chanting (and we chant) so much to a point when it’s soooo annoying to the outside people. And while we know that, we just can’t stop – it’s bigger than us, haha!
I was going to finish this post with the last sentence but then what would be a post about YMLP chant look like without a chant to end it with?
Here we go: “I GOT SPIRIT, YES I DO! I GOT SPIRIT, HOW ABOUT YOU????!!!!!!”
As I stated in my yesterday’s post, I’ll be writing a series of posts about the things that make Young Men’s Leadership Project (YMLP) what it is. It’s time for our core values ie. our Bible.
At camp, we focus on the development of leadership and employability skills, personal development, appreciation and respect for the environment, civic responsibility, diversity, inter-ethnic understanding, and contributing in our communities. The way we do all these things is by following our core values that guide all staff and campers throughout the week at camp.
Caring – for yourself, the community, and others
Honesty – be truthful in what you say and do.
Respect – treat all people – yourself and your community – with dignity and acceptance.
Responsibility – be accountable for your promises and actions.
Courage – face challenges and lead.
Creativity – find new solutions to challenges.
Passion – find your inspiration to create change.
Each one of these values teaches the staff and the campers how to lead, but also, how to approach every situation not just at camp, but in life as well. We learn what each of them means and how to act accordingly.
And every day, we have a different value for the day. We are told the value and its meaning and it’s great to see every team trying to do their best with their behavior and attitude regarding the value.
At the end of the day, a pair of facilitators is given the power to award one of the 8 teams with the value flag for being the best that day for the respective value. That recognition motivates the team that got the flag but also the rest of the teams to be better every new day which is amazing.
A few days ago, I got the idea to write about the chants at Young Men’s Leadership Project (YMLP) and when I started to write the post a thought crossed my mind. “Why don’t I share with the world a few more things about YMLP?” So I decided to do it. And after writing about our core values yesterday, I’ll finish the series of posts with the story about rough camping and s’mores.
At camp, if the weather allows us, we sleep outside in tents every night except the night right after rough camp. We have our campfire and night hike and right around 11 pm we’re all headed to our tents.
Each night, two different teams are given the opportunity to go rough camping. That means that they will walk 10 minutes away from base camp, the place where we sleep and have the campfire, and find the place where they will spend the night. They’re given food, tents, and water and that’s it. Starting the fire, cooking the food, setting up the tents… is the campers and their counselors. They stay the night, have dinner there and come back to the campsite after breakfast the next morning. They have enough food (well, not always haha) for both meals. And then they have s’mores.
For all of you Americans out there reading the blog, of course, you know what s’mores are. For the rest of you who don’t know, you’re missing out a lot!
The rough camp is the place where campers are introduced to s’mores and they love it. That’s how it was with me. I ate my first s’more at my first Young Life camp in 2013 and ever since have been teaching others how to cook their s’mores. I think pretty I’m good at it and I love introducing Europeans to this American tradition.
This year, as part of the Counseling team, I got to go rough camping twice. First, the night before campers arrived with all of the counselors and counselors-in-training (CiT) and then with my team at the end of the camp.
The first time was easier I must say. We started the fire pretty quickly because all the wood was dry and had some great conversations around the fire. After that, Brendan, Altrim and I stayed up a little bit longer to finish our Irish Gin rummy game. Brendan taught me the game the night before and I liked it so we included Altrim and played for a couple of hours.
After the campers arrived, the weather wasn’t really on our side. It wasn’t raining all the time but it was enough to make our rough camp experience even harder because of a lot of wood as wet. That’s why the second time I went rough camping this year it took us a few hours to get the fire going.
Once we got it going, we sat around the campfire, ate our food and started with our conversations. We’ve been together for few days but there were so many things that I didn’t know about them that I learned that night. It was the night that my campers heard me speaking in Macedonian a little bit. And yes, Slavcho (one of my campers) cooked his potatoes for more than 4 hours. Fun stuff.
That’s the reason I love rough camp so much. You bond so quickly there that’s amazing. I remember last year when I was a camper, we talked about conspiracy theories and JFK and 9/11. This year we talked about girls and dating and all kinds of funny stuff.
Also, last year at rough camp, my CiT Kiko told us that he’s going to sleep outside in a sleeping bag. I’m scared to death of animals and darkness but I wanted to experience something different so I did it. It was hard, I didn’t get much to sleep and I was bitten by mosquitoes but I loved it so I decided to do it again this year.
I was surprised to see three of my campers joining me in sleeping outside. It was awesome! Somehow I had the best night of sleep that night and didn’t wake up once.
I’m telling you, rough camp is something magical and is one of the reasons why I want to go back every year to YMLP.