The Most Common Reasons Camp Counsellors are Fired

People are fired from summer camps every year. In this episode, we discuss the most common reasons that summer camp counsellors are given the boot – and what you can do to keep yourself safe!

Transcript from the Podcast

Hello and welcome to There’s No Place Like Summer Camp. I’m your host, Andrew Waterhouse, and in today’s episode, we’re taking a look at the most common reasons that counselors are fired. So come on into our tent, and I’ll spill the beans.

Hello, everyone, welcome to the 41st episode of There’s No Place Like Summer Camp. This is the most common reasons that counselors are fired. A bit of a change of tune from the last week’s episode. So if you haven’t checked out already, that was the episode that was talking about where is Camp America in New York.

However, let’s crack on with the rest of this episode.

My Camp is closed for Covid

I have some breaking news in regards to updates since the last episode, which are very interesting, indeed. My camp personal camp that I went to for two summers, Camp Coleman has closed for 2020, which blows my mind. And if I’m honest, the people I’ve been speaking to, it was probably in the works and probably the most likely scenario for this camp. There was a decision made by the U R.J, which is the Union of Reformed Judaism. I think something along those lines, it’s the greater powers of the Jewish summer camps. And they’ve closed a number of summer camps for 2020. Basically, they made a decision that obviously the Coronavirus was too serious and too much of a risk for their camps to continue for this summer.

As far as I’m aware, this is only the second time that my camp personally has closed for summer. I forget off the top of my head the exact reason why it closed once before but I do remember at my camp, previous counselors speaking about it. And I think it was something similar to this actually where there was some sort of pandemic. Pandemic-ish, obviously wouldn’t be to the scale of the Coronavirus crisis, because it’s a global event. And I certainly don’t remember anything like this happening in my lifetime at least. But I do remember that. At one time in the past, Coleman has it has closed its doors. And yeah, here we are with them closed again. It lives long in the camps memories. It lives long in the directors and the counsellors, like for camp for so many people is their bread and butter is what gets them up in the morning or so they it’s what they dream about when they go to sleep. And it’s who they stay in touch with for the rest of their lives. Obviously in my case, it means that you make a podcast about it, it means you make a book about it. Some of your best friends may be from camp. So when you hear that your camp is closed, even if you’re not going to it yourself. It somewhat deflates you.

So I just like to start the episode off just mentioning that it’s a very sad time for all camps really, because I’m sure even those that are open. They’re going to be feeling the effects of the Coronavirus crisis. To some extent, I’m sure there are plenty of parents that don’t particularly want to send their kids to an enclosed summer camp where there’s a lot of contact between people. And the whole science behind the Coronavirus is still up in the air to some extent.

I know that schools are still closed, but there was a time at least in the UK where people were confused whether kids could even contract the disease and then that creates all sorts of confusion. So I’m sure some parents have been have been pulling their kids out of camp, even if their camps are open for this summer. But at least in my case, Camp Coleman is closed.

Now, you may have noticed in previous episode with the interview that I had with Alex, a fan of the show that I briefly skimmed over the idea of potentially postponing a few episodes of There’s No Place Like Summer Camp should all camps in Camp America close and cease to exist for 2020. It’s something that I definitely have to think about personally, as you are all well aware that this podcast is a work of passion and it’s a pet project that I love to try and inject some of that soul that summer camp brings to you through the through the medium of audio. And it’s worth me thinking about whether it’s actually worth still continuing with episodes and content because it does take a lot of time to create these but I do really enjoy it. And I had a discussion with a couple of people about potentially postponing the podcast should that happen.

So just so you’re all aware, you’re all in the loop. That could still happen if Camp America decides, you know what it’s too much risk for us to send out all of our volunteers and potentially contract something and then where to Camp America lie in all of this, authorizing the go-ahead of 1000s of volunteers flying over to America.

Camp Leaders’ stance on COVID

But at the time of recording, there’s been no real update from Camp America in regards to whether they’re going to be closing for the summer, they’re still going ahead with the idea that camps are still going to be going ahead for 2020. However, there is an update from Camp Leaders. So let me give you a bit of insight into that if you are applying through there, or you just want to keep abreast on top of all these summer camp updates.

So on the 28th of April, Camp Leaders provided an update on the Coronavirus crisis and how they’re having a heavily reduced staff force at the moment where they’re all social distancing working from home, they’re trying to do their best. Basically what they’re working on at the moment is a system to allow participants to defer their applications for the summer of 2020 over to 2021 or 2022.

If volunteers do not yet have a place at camp or are now unable to travel. So probably does is not suspending the program. The majority of the camps that Camp Leaders work with are gearing up for an incredible summer, they’re just adjusting their operations may be moving some dates around. But nonetheless, they’re excited to welcome campers and international staff. So they do encourage that everyone stays on the program at this point if you can. But of course, safety is a priority. And will not facilitate summer camp travel, if it is unsafe to do.

So it will obviously be reviewed on a regular basis, following the advisories from the US visa sponsors, national government authorities and public health services. That’s pretty much the update from Camp Leaders, they have actually got that system in place now as of the first of May. If you do want to defer your application, you think you know what, it’s too much of a risk.

But I’d love to still do summer camp and volunteer over there, so I’d recommend going into It’s accessible through the desktop, you can’t do this through the app, by the way, it has to be done through the normal website through, where you’ll be able to defer your application to a later year.

Possible episode freeze during covid

So back to the discussion of potentially pushing back some episodes or maybe trimming down or having some sort of break until maybe September or later in the year. It’s still all in the air, I’d really welcome some feedback. So if I think the majority of the listeners would prefer to carry on with the content because it provides you with a summer camp spark that may be lacking in these weird and strange times. If you have any feedback as to whether you would like to like for this to continue, please hit me up I’m available at There’s No Place Like Summer You can send me a little message through there. All your support is welcome this time. And until otherwise, until official word from Camp Leaders or Camp America officially cancelling all camps, I think I’m gonna still continue but it’d be nice to get your feedback on this. Okay, so with all those updates out of the way, guys, let’s carry on with the rest of this episode. I’m sorry, there was such a long introduction for this one. But I think it’s really good to get an overview of where I’m currently at where summer camps are currently at. And a bit around the podcast as well for update news.

The Most Common Reasons Counsellors are Fired from Summer Camp

So in this episode, we’re taking a look at the most common reasons counsellors are fired. And trust me every year, every camp, someone gets fired. So let’s hop straight into it.

Alcohol – the big reason counsellors are fired from camp

Okay, so we’re gonna start this off with the big boy, which is alcohol. Every year without fail, someone will get fired, because they come back to camp drunk, or they get caught with alcohol on their person. Camps are very stringent on these sorts of things. They can’t be having staff members coming back and then supporting their kids or looking after kids or looking after an activity even if they’re coming back to camp intoxicated, it pretty much makes sense.

Before I start properly with this list, every camp has their own rules and their way of dealing with things so it’s not all-encompassing this episode. There are just the most common reasons that counsellors are fired rather than every single one and I’ll Get into the terms and conditions of actually applying through Camp America as to potential reasons that you could be fired and all that jazz. We’ll come to that at the end of the episode.

Americans take Alcohol so Seriously – its a culture to adapt to

Alcohol, though, is a massive one. Because in case you didn’t know that minimum, yeah, the minimum legal age of drinking in America is 21. So if you’re going over to America to have a really good time get wasted, make some good friends make some really cool memories. Don’t expect to be going into a shop at 19 or 20, being able to buy alcohol. Suddenly, no you can’t, it’s a strange thing. Because in the UK, obviously, it’s 18. You can just walk into a shop, flash your ID, and there you go, you’re served. But when you’re in America, it’s 21. So if you do end up potentially being served, you’re obviously breaking the law.

Even if you come back to camp slightly tipsy and they could smell alcohol on you, you could be fired just for that because you’ve broken their law, and therefore you’ve broken the visa terms as well. So camps are really tight on these sorts of things.

Drugs will get you fired

The next one in particular, which is drugs, really ties into this one as well. If you’re going to be having drugs and weed and, you know, as a whole umbrella of drugs that this could fall under, then they’re obviously going to revoke their hire. Camp are going to take back those contract papers, they’re going to make sure that you get out of the country as soon as possible. Because at the end of the day, the camps are there for the kids, they’re not there for people to have a massive piss up and get off.

Camp is there for the campers and parents to be 100% trusting that this place will take care of their kids, making sure that kids will have an absolute blast, and grow their kids into something new. I think that is something that’s so addictive about going to summer camp is that it transforms you and it makes you learn and makes you grow into a proper person, rather than a child. I think that’s something that’s maybe missing a lot in normal society because summer camps are their own enclosed bubble. And this probably ties into scouts and cubs as well, which is my background of how I got into Camp America in the first place. When you have such a tight knit community, you’re going to grow and you’re going to make some really good friends and have some incredible memories. So they don’t want some twit from the UK to come over, pissed off their head because they think they’re 20 years old, and they can just drink and have a good time. And then try and smuggle drugs into camp, it’s not gonna happen, you’re gonna get the boot. And you’re going to be heading on the next right back to the UK or wherever you’re from.

The third common reason for firing: Smoking

The third one that will tie into this most common reasons that counsellors are fired is smoking because there are loads of camps that actually have non-smoking policies in place no matter that the camp is outside and away from, you know, the normal hobble and bubble of daily activity. There are there will be quiet places that you can go to in camps and sneak off maybe have a smoke. But some camps are really tight on this. And they don’t want their counsellors to be smelling of smoke.

They don’t want them to give off an impression to the campers that this isn’t the most premium place in the world. So obviously, again, this ties into specific camps. Some camps are more lax on this, they actually encourage you to put the detail into your Camp America profile that you do like to have a smoke. I’ve actually covered this in a previous episode. If you haven’t already, go check out the older episodes that I’ve recorded. Interesting one, and I learned a lot myself.

But if you do get caught smoking on a camp that has a zero-tolerance policy, you could get the boot as well.

Hooking up at camp can get you fired!

The penultimate one on this list is sexual intercourse. Sexual intercourse, guys… sexual intercourse.

Put it this way. If you are caught having sex, then you’re not really doing your job of being a volunteer. You’re not looking after the kids you’re looking after yourself. So I think that pretty much makes sense. Let’s move on with the last one.

The last one really encompasses all of the little bits that I’ve missed off. Because at the end of the day, these four subjects alcohol, drugs, smoking and sex, sexual intercourse all fall under the same header, which is that you’re compromising camp’s safety and standards. You would have had this from a previous podcast with Alex. Because at his camp, he had someone that was fired because they compromised camps safety. They were treating campers differently.

They were giving preferential treatment to some campers and not others. And it was just a little bit weird. That’s a compromise of other campers, you know, experiences. So I had an actual experience of this too. Not personally, of course, I wasn’t fired from my summer camp. But I saw a camp counsellor who was fired because they treated the kid in the wrong way. In a really difficult situation. Sometimes it’s not as black and white as you may think, like, getting fired from a camp sounds like okay, just don’t be an idiot. Don’t just for a couple of months, avoid alcohol, drugs, smoking sex, and just be, you know, nice to the kids.

But this particular situation at my camp was a really tricky one. And I’ll give you a little preview into it. And you can read more about it in the book, which comes out hopefully later this year is out now. So put yourself in this situation…

An example of where a counsellor was fired In a tricky situation

A counsellor has a cabin full of kids, 10 kids, and one of the kids has found out about a surprise that’s about to come around the corner for all of the camp. This is a top-secret surprise.

Only the staff know about it. But, this camper has taken a look into this counsellor’s bag saw a note and gone “Oh my God, look what’s happening tomorrow. Look what’s happening. Guys, guys, look!”

The counsellor then goes, “Boy, right? Stop. You can’t be doing that. What you’re doing is ruining camp!” So then the camper goes, “Ah, it’s real! Oh, my God, look, guys, look.” Then the counsellor brings the camper to one side and tells him to calm down.

“Tell the group that it’s wrong… make up some sort of excuse that this piece of paper doesn’t actually reveal anything. You need to stop, stop acting over the top. Calm down, you’re going to ruin camp for everyone. If you tell everyone this surprise, it’s ruined.”

The camper doesn’t take any notice of this goes back in and starts going “oh my god, surprise tomorrow, surprise tomorrow!”

Oh. And then the next thing you know, the counsellor has got so incensed by this that he picks up a camper drags him outside and goes “What the hell do you think you’re doing? You can’t be doing this, this surprise is the biggest surprise of camp, what you’re doing!” The camper starts crying.

And next thing you know, the counsellor is booted out the door.

A camper ruining the biggest surprise vs a counsellor protecting his cabin

In that situation, it’s really tricky to see. You can see from both sides of view. And it was one that really divided camp, I think, at least at the time it happened. You could see the point of view of the camper because they’re really excited about the surprise and that he’s just a kid at the end of the day. But at the same time, you can see totally see the side of the counsellor.

The counsellor tried to spot something that’s gonna ruin camp for all these kids. He’s tried to stop this kid that’s trying to you know, spoil the surprise. And then, because the camper is not listening, he’s got so incensed and annoyed that he’s dragged him out. No real physical abuse, apart from maybe a drag. But it’s a slip of standard. And at the end of the day, I could see how he could do got fired personally. Looking back, it’s always a shock that someone does get fired. It’s not always so clear, grey like this was.

Not all firing’s are so clear-cut

So if you compromise on camper safety or campus standards, then you can expect to get the boot. They try to teach you these things in staff week. Well, I don’t know if staff week is referred to the same thing in all camps, as staff week. For me was a week before camp when all staff were in and we were getting trained all day, seven days a week, where we just basically be taught about what to expect for camp coming up, how camp runs, how it operates, what things need to get sorted in time and all that good stuff because there’s a lot to bed in. But staff week was really the foundation for all of this it sets the standards, it sets you how you can treat kids and how you can be the best counsellor or be the best specialist, be the best director or unit head… There’s so many different roles at camp.

So expect staff week to set the standard of what your camp is used to. And if you break these rules then expect to get punished.

Camp America Terms and Conditions on Getting Fired

So as we start to close up this episode, I thought it’d be interesting to actually take a look at the Camp America terms and conditions but because I think these are really interesting points for anyone that thinks it’s a fun idea to get fired, it’s really not.

So if you are fired, it is your responsibility to make your own flight reservations. And all costs incurred are your responsibility.

That is interesting straightaway, in case you didn’t know, if you’re fired, you have to collect the next flight back to your home country, doesn’t matter that you haven’t got the money, you have to buy it. And you’re going to be taken to the airport by a security member or a lead member of leadership. And then we’ll wait with you until you catch the next flight.

It’s illegal for Camp to keep you in the country after being fired

It’s actually illegal for them to keep you at camp or in the country. As soon as they fired you for something because it makes the visa that you’re on potentially a J1 or J2 visa invalid. So just a heads up, you really don’t want to be fired.

Another interesting point that I found in the terms and conditions of this was, you can be fired from camp for any reason. It’s entirely up to the camp, where the lines are, it’s not particularly Camp America’s strongest suits have the support that you’ve been fired from a camp and you don’t think it was justified. There might be some litigation process where you can go through and be like, look, the camps got it wrong. But this is my case, I want to put forward to Camp America, there might be a support mechanism in place. But I am slightly doubtful that that potentially exists because at the end of the day, the camp that you’re hired by is how you got the visa, it’s not Camp America.

If you are fired from camp, resign or leave camp due to homesickness, or if you engage in conduct, that in the opinion of Camp America is deemed detrimental, our sponsorship will be revoked, you will forfeit your pocket money, application payments, airport tax contribution, insurance payment and all other payments. You will be financially responsible for your costs to fly home and subject to the terms of program reimbursements stipulated in item 28. In such cases, you’re required to contact Camp America immediately on the 24-hour number, which actually posted in the previous podcast go check it out.

So I think that in general sums up reasons why you don’t want to be fired from campus. Not a good look. You are really fucked from a financial point of view, or what are the costs that you put into applying to camp have gone all the application fees or the visa fees, although they are gone already, the biggest thing is the flight back because you have to buy the next flight. And that’s entirely on you. Any support that Camp America can provide will be limited. It’s not going to be financial, and you’re going to have to sort out yourself, if you don’t have the money on you, that’s your problem.

If you get fired, you get no pocket money from camp

Because you won’t have pocket money, then you’re going to have to get in contact with people from back home, there might be a time delay with the time difference. You might have to wait at the airport like eight hours until they wake up. It’s a real shit show.

But you really are forced out of the country. I can’t stress that enough.

Get in touch to be a guest!

Right. As we’ve come to the end of the episode, I thought I’d brighten it up. And I think it would be actually hilarious to get in touch with someone that potentially has been fired from camp. Maybe you want to chat about it. Hey, I’m no agony aunt but it could be a real fun podcast fun interview, so get in touch. Because we all want to know about it.

It’d be really cool to hear about how rumours are spread, and what people have learned since so if you have been fired from a camp and you do want to chat, get in touch. In the next episode, we’re taking a look at what age you can do Camp America. And you would know this if you followed our Instagram page. I post a preview of the upcoming content.

I hope you enjoyed this episode and I shall see you on Friday. Keep surviving and thriving.

There’s No Place Like Summer Camp, the diary kept in my first summer of Camp America is available now on Amazon. Go check it out!

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