Although it is great to be back with my family, I miss camp so much. Every day, the kids and coaches brought a sense of enthusiasm that is impossible to forget. As I sit and reflect upon my time in Vietnam, I cannot help but think about the thing that I miss the most: my friendship with the kids.
Coming into the program, I did not expect to get that close to the kids. After the first week, it seemed to be true; many of the kids were shy and did not speak too much. However, as camp progressed and we shared stories about our lives, we all became closer to one another. Each of the kids was great in their own right—some were diligent students, others were extremely creative—and they all displayed the same incredible work ethic and effort.
Looking back, one of my fondest memories was the final basketball competition. We had taught the kids enough for them to play a 4-on-4 game against each other. We divided each of the 4 color teams up into 4 teams and placed the sixteen teams into a “March Madness” bracket. The 8th grade Green Team did so well that they faced each other in the finals! I told them that I so proud of their effort and sportsmanship. Soon after, two of the boys told me that they tried their hardest to win because they loved seeing how happy I was when they did well. I had no words. Our relationship had come so far from the first week; we were invested in each other’s happiness.
I was so grateful for the opportunity to meet all of these incredible people and I believe everyone else felt the same way.
Unfortunately, this is what made saying goodbye so difficult. After only three weeks, I had become so close to these kids, I had been with them through the wins and the losses, and I had seen each of them make an immense amount of progress in both sports and academics. Although the farewell ceremony was waterlogged in tears, there was an underlying sense of happiness. I was so grateful for the opportunity to meet all of these incredible people and I believe everyone else felt the same way. As the bus pulled away from the camp, I had a comforting thought: Although I may not meet these kids again, I will always support them from afar.