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Residential Camps featuring alpine adventures with Camp Suisse

By Julia Brucher

Kidsorted met up with Camp Director Julie from Camp Suisse to find out more about life at camp and what to expect:

Julie, please tell us a bit about the camp site where Camp Suisse is hosting the May Half Term and Summer Camps.

Our flagship site is in the beautiful Alpine village of Torgon, an hour and a half from Geneva. It is the perfect location for our camp, right at the end of the road in a quiet mountain village. It is picture postcard perfect as you will see from our photos.

You cater to children from 7 - 17 years. For some of the younger kids, it must be quite exciting to be away for the first time alone from home at a camp. How do you help them to settle in and make them comfortable?

There is a very special, family feel to our camp where everyone knows everyone after a short period of time. Most of our campers come to camp alone and many are a long way from home, in a different country, speaking a second, third or even fourth language. I think this experience of being 'in the same boat' contributes to campers very quickly and very easily finding their feet. We have many campers who return from previous years and even mentors who are older campers on work experience, all of whom contribute to helping the younger campers settle in.

Amongst our fabulous team of staff, we employ a team of pastoral care leaders whose responsibility is to look out for the health, welfare and happiness of our campers. They are on duty during the evening and night time and attend to all manner of pastoral issues from illness to homesickness to making sure the tooth fairy knows where we are.

Do all children fly alone to Geneva? What are the logistics that parents need to be aware of?

Yes, many children fly alone to Geneva. Those coming long-haul eg from the US or Asia may fly UM - unaccompanied minor - meaning they are accompanied by the airline for the flight and I will sign for them on arrival in Geneva. Parents would have given my details to the airline when booking the ticket. We have a welcome desk at Geneva airport on arrivals day and have a team of staff there meeting and greeting our campers. Arrival and departure days all tend to run very smoothly. It’s perhaps not as daunting as it sounds, putting your children on a plane once you have done it once or twice. Many of our youngsters are very well travelled.

Do all children come from the UK?

No, not all kids come from the UK. We are a truly international camp with campers coming from 44 different counties in our 7 weeks of international camp in summer 2018.

What does a typical day at Camp Suisse look like?

A typical day at camp would see those campers that need waking up being woken between 7am and 7.30am by the pastoral care team, to head up to breakfast for 8am. Any early risers would already have been taken up to the main camp building for a spot of pre-breakfast ping pong.

Breakfast runs until 8.45am, at which time each colour group has their group meetings. The meetings ensure everyone is set for the day ahead. Activities run from 9am - 12.30p, and 1.30pm to 5.30pm. An in-camp day would see campers getting stuck in to any one of the many fabulous activities on offer from Archery to Art Jamming, Indoor Climbing to Mountain Biking. An excursion day involves hopping on the Camp Suisse coach and heading off down the mountain to the Cheese and Chocolate factories, the Montreux Jazz Festival (July), the Glacier, the Waterpark, the list goes on....! Summer camps (not spring) also feature 15 hours of lively, great fun language tuition in French, German, Spanish or English per two-week session. It is such an international environment with a fabulous mix of cultures, backgrounds, nationalities and languages coming together in one place.

5.30pm - 6.30pm is ‘shower hour’ and the hour during which campers can access their mobile phones to call home or receive a call.

The bank of Camp Suisse opens before dinner and campers can come along with their bank cards to withdraw their pocket money in small instalments each day.

Dinner runs from 6.30pm -7.30pm and then the evening activities begin, delivered each evening by the pastoral care team.

Campers could find themselves playing the staff vs. camper football match, singing songs round the camp fire or dancing the night away at Prom Evening.

Bedtime and lights out times are staggered starting at 9pm with the younger campers. It’s essential to get a good night’s sleep so we can do it all again tomorrow :)

What languages are spoken at Camp Suisse and how do you support children to learn a 2nd or 3rd language?

As you can imagine with a mixture of over forty different nationalities, there are many different languages being spoken. The official camp language is English and we also offer a French intensive option for kids needing to focus more on their French. Aside from this we formally teach second language classes in French, English, Spanish or German.

What are some of the most popular activities and children rave about most?

Oh, where do I start … ? The glacier day with husky dog sledding is always a huge hit. It's is a once in a lifeline activity for most of our youngsters but imagine if you come from a country that never sees snow, it truly is a magical experience for our campers. Banana boating is always very well received, as is the water park. We have a 9m auto belay climbing wall on site which our kids love and really benefit from. "Mountain biking in the actual mountains!" (as one camper once said) is very popular. For some, the cheese and chocolate factories are what they came to Switzerland for! Our overnight expedition to an Alpine refuge is a very exciting adventure for all. In fact, we have so many incredible activities it is hard to fit them all into one session.

Do activities differ for younger children vs. teenagers?

Yes and no. Kids are grouped with other youngsters of the same age, and all activities are then delivered in an age appropriate manner. The program is adapted slightly to vary for the younger campers, for example we offer a theme park to the younger kids whilst the older kids do a tree top adventure. The older campers enjoy some greater freedom than the youngest campers including for example a pizza evening at the local restaurant and the option to visit the local shop.

What do kids say they like most about being at camp?

I think the friendships that are formed are what kids really take away from the experience. Meeting people from all over the world, staying in touch with them, even meeting up with them again at camp in a subsequent year. There is something special about the bonds that young people form in our environment which is away from their parents, regular teachers, regular peers and so uniquely culturally diverse. They share a special time with these people during their camp experience and that is very different from meeting someone at home or at school. They will also remember their camp staff who play such a huge part in shaping their summer camp experience.



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