Coming into an organization like Rainbows United as a camp staffer can be very overwhelming. It sure was for me. But after only a week, I have learned more about children with special needs than in my entire life, while also having fun.
My name is Justin. I’m a student at Wichita state University, and I have a summer internship and job at Rainbows. I really did not know what to expect on my first day on the job at Camp Woodchuck. My experience with children comes from taking care of my twenty younger siblings and cousins, almost all under the age of 10. So from knowing that, I thought I would have been placed with the younger of kids at Rainbows. At orientation I found out that I was actually assigned to work with kids ages 15-21. Hearing that made me even more nervous. Although anxious, I knew it would be a great opportunity. Moving further into the orientation day, our classroom leads began telling us about the kids and their needs. From food allergies to seizure precautions, I wasn’t sure if I was quite ready. But, that feeling was diverted when we were told about the personalities of our soon-to-be buddies.
The first official Camp day finally came and I met the kids. Some were very enthusiastic about meeting their new friends, giving out hugs after hugs, while others shied away, sneaking little peaks of us and snapping their head away with a smile when we looked back. Continuing through the week the other new staffers and I began to learn each child’s habits and interests, whether it is blasting a soccer ball as far as they can or conducting the entire camp choir with a wizard hat and wand. With all of this going on, singing, coloring, playing catch, and just having a good time in general, I forget that the kids I am with actually have special needs.
It really does not even feel like work; yes, we may have to clean up messes every now and then, but the directions of how to handle a seizure or a tantrum that we learned at orientation have yet been used. I am not saying that I will never have to use those skills this summer, but they have been infrequent, while the rest of the time is hanging out and enjoying my time with these awesome kids. I have worked several jobs requiring 8 hour shifts, and only with this position, the shift feels like 4 hours. I guess time really does fly by when you are having fun.
My time at Rainbows as a Marketing Intern has also been interesting, from doing some graphic design work to writing this blog about my first week at Camp experience, I think I’m going to learn a lot. I cannot wait for the rest of the summer and all the memories to come!
By Justinh Truong, Rainbows’ Marketing Intern – WSU Student