The Power of Community — A Student’s Story at VIHW

It seems like a long time ago now, but I can remember it like yesterday, a golden pocket in my memory…

My experience with the students and staff of Vermont Institute on Heath and Wellness was educational, cleansing, and rejuvenating. All of the staff were very encouraging and supportive, they all came from different backgrounds and with their various expertise, they taught us all the practical things to do to stay healthy. However the biggest thing that I learned about health was not taught by any one counselor or camp member but by the entire camp community as a whole.

This started on the first day of camp when we all sat together in a circle and talked about the kind of “culture” we wanted to create for the camp environment. We discussed and agreed upon what we thought should be allowed and not allowed at camp. We talked about acceptance, confidentiality, trust and respect for the week.

I have done similar activities in school but no one had really taken this seriously. At VIHW we collectively set a powerful intention to make the week a special experience. Because of this, we were able to be ourselves without having to worry about what other kids might think or judge. Within this safe culture, I made close friends very fast, it was special to connect with so many people in this way. I think that the most important thing that I learned while at VIHW is that being yourself is essential to being happy and healthy.

When the week had ended and it was time to go back to my hometown I was sad to leave but I took what I learned with me back to my house. Back in the chaos of school and life, I was able to be clear with myself as to what I wanted and what was best for me. I actually made some pretty big decisions for myself and have been more conscious as to how I treat other people, my body, and myself.

My whole experience at VIHW was memorable but if I had to pick one memorable moment, it would have to be the night where we all fed each other ice cream! It was fun and casual and it felt like a big family. Feeling like you belong is a good feeling.

By Austen Erickson