Homepage / Blog


CATEGORIES - Association News




ICF Ripples

Drop a pebble in the water:  just a splash and it is gone;

But there’s half-a-hundred ripples circling on and on and on

Spreading - spreading from the centre, flowing on out to the sea

And there is no way of telling where the end is going to be.

We are two months on from the International Camping Congress in Antalya Turkey and the ripples that have emanated from that important international gathering continue to spread. Membership and membership interest continues to grow with our latest reports indicating that we have reached into 81 countries to camping professionals with interest in the work of ICF.

The presentations from the Research Forum at the Congress and from the ICF Research Committee headed by Deb Bialeschki and Stephen Fine are now posted on the ICF website. Each of us should be using this material to inform our approach to everything we do - from our business plans to our conversations with the public about what we do.

On almost a daily basis, social media is rich with photographs and retrospectives of time spent in Turkey before, during and after the Congress. These pictures and postings prompt another break in each of our days to reflect upon the impact that these experiences have created. Behind these public postings are the even more important ripples between and amongst the individuals involved. Messages, plans and exchanges by these friends, new and old, reach across borders and distance to strengthen connections, share information and make preparations for future meetings, experiences and work together.

In North America, we are approaching conference season. Like the Congress itself, these conferences and meetings allow us to re-connect with friends and associates while examining the successes of last year and the challenges in the next. Some ICF members will gather in Toronto Canada at the Ontario Camps Association Annual Conference and New Orleans, USA at the American Camp Association National Conference. The ICF Annual Meeting will take place in New Orleans.

While the ICF Board is making its plans for the Annual Meeting and other projects, the real success of the organization is achieved in the contacts and connections at the individual member level. Bringing together the world of outdoor experience does not make us all the same.  It is a sharing of ideas and a critique of different approaches. It is an understanding of what makes us different and what we have in common.  It is a link to the people who can help one camp, one camp leader, one camp association, one camping movement reach to another in order to find the resources, ideas and strategies to chart a path to a better place.

These ripples do not push apart. They connect us together.


The rest of the poem about ripples invites us to think about the types of ripples we make. Perhaps, it can be useful in your staff training --- or your personal lives. Happy New Year

Drop an unkind word, or careless:  in a minute it is gone;

But there’s half-a-hundred ripples circling on and on and on

They keep spreading, spreading, spreading, from the centre as they go,

And there is no way to stop them, once you’ve started them to flow.


Drop a word of cheer and kindness:  just a flash, and it is gone;

But there’s half-a-hundred ripples circling on and on and on

Bearing hope and joy and comfort on each splashing, dashing wave

Till you wouldn’t believe the volume of the one kind word you gave.

May the camping ripples that we produce in 2015 reach even more children, more camp leaders and more places where camping can make a positive difference in the lives of others.

Camping Fellowship
Dec, 30, 2014
Click here for more

CATEGORIES - Association News


ICC Address

ICC 2014 - Let's Camp for Peace

ICC 2014 Group Photo
Let's Camp for Peace 2014
Inaugural Address – 
John Jorgenson

At the end of every day in our summer camp, our campers and staff gather around the flagpole to lower flags and sing this song. With this Congress’ theme of “Let’s Camp for Peace”, the words of this song seem very appropriate:

Build the Road of Peace before us

Build it wide and build it long

Speed the slow, remind the eager

Help the weak and guide the strong

None shall push aside another

None shall let another fall

Stand together sister, brother

All for one and one for all

This Congress here is but one resting place along the long trail we have created together. The greatest gift is that there are so many of us from so many different places sitting together in common purpose. Some of us are coming from countries where we are just setting off on the journey to build the camp movement and others from countries where it is well established. There is help and leadership available to the one and motivation to lead available to the other. Together we can share, inspire, learn and teach Together we journey, creating a wide and long road – all for one and one for all.

In 1987, camp leaders in North America thought that it might be a good idea to take a national meeting and send out invitations to other countries to participate. When these international delegates arrived, they discovered that they were a part of a world of camping that was unbelievably interesting and important. The ICF butterfly took off at that Conference. Chuck Ackenbom was one of the organizers of that event and we are grateful that is here with us today.

In 1994, ICF began its first partnership with national organizations and committees to help create and support a series of International Camping Congresses. That first Congress in Toronto, Canada (20 years ago this year!) began a strong tradition of growth and development in different parts of the world and in the ICF itself.

And now, here we are in Turkey. The Butterfly has landed and flourished in so many places over these years. We have accomplished great things and we can now find camp, camping and the camp feeling in so many lands, in so many languages and in so many cultures.

Let’s camp for peace… We are on the threshold of something big; something special; something important. A big dream! – no question!. Too big? – not at all!

There are those who feel that we ought to design and run our camps more like the real world from which our campers and leader and come. We must train them to cope in challenging times and adverse conditions. We cannot do that in a place that is an escape from the real world. Camp should not be an oasis away but a reflection of the real world. We should show them how to be tough, resilient, strong…

In that ‘real’ world there are many, many challenges. In this room and in our organization, there are camping leaders who come from countries whose governments cannot or will not talk to one another. Together in this room and in our organization there camping leaders from countries with governments who struggle with extreme social and health issues, problems of child poverty, challenges related to agriculture and food production. Do we really want camps to reflect the real world? Perhaps the real world should be more like camps. In our camps, we can teach campers to be tough, resilient, strong…but in a different way… in a way that is compassionate, caring and filled with positive role models.

If governments operated like camp, there would be much more understanding, problem solving and conflict resolution. If governments went to camp, there would be much more healthy activity, much more sharing, much more collective work to improve conditions for everyone.

The ICF is growing and together we are all growing stronger, The ICF has met all this week and together we have made some plans. We must keep planning together and we need everyone’s help to do so.

God may laugh at us (as he has with our plans for good weather here in Turkey) but we know that eventually the sun will come forth and eventually our plans will come to reality.

If our hearts are willing and our arms are strong then we will continue to achieve great things together. At our 2014 Board meetings, ICF has renewed its commitment to the following things:

  • Spread ICF services and programs around the world (ICDC, other specialized and customized trainings, research and research results, recognition for camping leadership everywhere, support for emerging camp communities).
  • Take on the work of re-writing our Constitution, By-Laws and Procedures. This has become necessary because now, after 25 years, we serve a much larger and more diverse membership. We will require a special general meeting for all ICF members explain these changes and to participate in the process.
  • Create more room for more volunteers and leadership within ICF – not simply at the Board level but more importantly, at the committee, special project, event and regional level. Everyone is welcome to participate in building this camping community.
  • Reach out to forge more strategic partnerships with like-minded and like-hearted organizations who can support us in word and deed. These are organizations with whom we share common objectives. These organizations can help us bring our message to a wider world of youth development so that more people can find a home in the ICF. ICF can become a more significant voice in the area of international youth development, global citizenship and environmental education.
  • Create many leaders. Pete Seeger was a songwriter and a song leader who loved camping. He reminded us that we should “Be wary of great leaders. Hope for many, many small leaders.” Remember that we are working today with tomorrow`s leaders. Every one of them can become leaders in their own way. We must provide them with the very best tools – tools for their hands, tools for their heart and tools for their head, so that the world they build is right for their community, their country and their world.
  • Convey a key message through our camps: ‘that we are not alone’ and ‘we do not stand alone’. Our brothers and sisters who are in our country and in other countries – deserve and need camp experiences and opportunities as well.  As global citizens, with associated rights and responsibilities, we must not only plant seeds of friendship and understanding – we must water and nurture those seeds to help make them strong.

Mother Teresa reminded us that, in the end, even the ocean is made up of drops. Each drop, each effort, each act of kindness moves us to a place where we can truly make a difference. We move closer to a place where the difference is enough to effect change.

What can we do? What can our camps do? What can our campers do?

By forgoing a meal at a camp in one country to better support a camp for children in another, we make a difference. By planting trees… By raising money… By connecting to a sister camp… by even thinking together about how we can become better, we make a difference… All these drops in the ocean create a ripple. A ripple becomes a wave and a wave carries to a distant shore.

At the end of the conference, however, we must remember that our most important connection is not with one another here. It is not with the leaders who work so hard on our behalf and it is not with the camps and campsites that we create each year. In fact, our most important connection - and the thing that is at the heart of everything we do, everything we create and every decision we make must be the children we serve. It is these children who deserve our attention, our effort and our love…

At a conference much like this one, a former ICF President, Jack Pearse jotted down some notes from a presenter. Those words developed into a song. That song matches the theme of this Congress as well as the Rainbow of Peace poem that I shared with you at the beginning of this piece. Let us carry all that we have learned here away to the children – and for the children.

Picture a world with a rainbow of peace

Arching in splendor above it

Each colour and hue blending perfectly true,

Surely we can’t help but love it.

What should we do to be sure, in each land,

That the rainbow of peace keeps on glowing

The richer we’ll be if we walk hand in hand,

While our love and our friendship keep growing.


Now is the time and this is the place,

And we are the folks who believe it

Let’s give and forgive for as long as we live

We know that we all can achieve it

For the children we’ll sing, to the children we’ll bring

A challenge to show us the way.

Let’s open our eyes, for our destiny lies

Through the children, we’ll reach a new day


And when we give our hearts to others

When we start to do our share

When we’re sisters and brothers

Then we’ll know we really care

–  for the children

Camping Fellowship
Nov, 16, 2014
Click here for more

CATEGORIES - Association News


China 2015


Inaugural Conference of China Camp Education Alliance

At the conclusion of the symposium held at Gehua Camp in Qinhuangdao, China in April of 2014, the various parties who were present endorsed the formation of a China Camp Education Alliance. Educators, camp operators, educational travel groups, government representatives and ICF members recognized the need for and value of a fresh approach to youth development in China – one that incorporated non-formal education - the kind of intentional educational activity that is typical in camping formats across the world.

In just one short year, spearheaded by the IDEAS foundation in China, the 11 founding organizations have not only created the organization known as the China Camp Education Alliance but generated a very professional inaugural conference. Zhao Wei (Lily) of IDEAS serves as both first president and principal inspiration for the work of CCEA

Beginning with pre-conference programs held at Gehua Camp in Qinhuangdao, training included the first International Camp Director Course to be held in China. Connie Coutellier (USA), Andrew McGuckian (AUS), Tennant Kiu (SGP) along with Brendan Smith (AUS) provided the training. The program also offered other workshops in program design and camp development. Almost 90 participants were registered in these various trainings.

Moving to Beijing, the China Camp Education Conference took on a particular formal turn with a highly professional event involving almost 400 participants from all over China. Educators, government officials from the Ministry of Education, practitioners were joined by various international presenters and representatives from several countries’ camping associations. Blending beautiful cultural elements with keynote presentations, parallel sessions and a two-day exposition hall, this conference promises to be both an annual and must-attend event in East Asia.

ICF Board representation included John Jorgenson (CAN), Bill Oakley (AUS), Andrew McGuckian (AUS), Don Cheley (USA) and Valery Kostin (RUS). Michael Thompson, Scott Brodie, Steve Baskin, Andy Pritikin, Aleksey Zubakhin (RUS) were joined by other presenters and delegates from China, Australia, Canada, Russia and England.

Camping Fellowship
May, 22, 2015
Click here for more


Samara, Russia - The Heart of the Nation

Samara 1

Each April, in the heart of Russia, a small collection of camp directors and educators gathers together to discuss various matters related to camping and youth development in their region. The executive director of this particular camping association is Natalia Shahova. Her work and the work of the association are typical of the work that is going on all over the world. It is hard work. As with many other camping communities, the volunteer base is small and the challenges are big. How to bring understanding of camp youth development to a bureaucratic oversight, to other education professionals and to a distracted public?

For the past several years, Natalia has managed to bring some outside support to help spread the word and inspire the camp directors in Samara region. This year, Svetlana Petrova of St Petersburg and Valery Dolgikh of Perm were joined by John Jorgenson from ICF for a series of events at schools, camps, and conferences to support development. The main message from all three of these presenters from outside the region is that you are stronger together.

Natalia’s work is supported and sponsored by other camp leaders and visionaries. Most notably, Marat Alyushev has recognized for many years what many of us have also discovered. He knows that the strength and success of any one camp is more assured when the community of camps is strong and successful. Across the world, volunteers have offered time, energy and leadership to this cause – locally, nationally and internationally. This work is work away from the enormous work in their own particular camp and contributes to a greater good. Each voice that joins the chorus brings a brighter and bolder future for camping and youth.

Samara Region is growing stronger with every successful event.


Camping Fellowship
May, 25, 2015
Click here for more



Camp Robin Hood - A Legendary Camp
Like Marat Alyushev in Samara, Taras Kononets, and his wife Svetlana Slobozhanina, are working to make a difference in Russia and in camping. Having founded Camp Industry (a collection of distinct programs: Camp Robin Hood, Karolina Camp and Motor Camp developed over the past decade), they could have stopped there, to focus on their own site development, marketing and staff training. Instead (and in addition), they are active in camping policy development with the Russian Federation and they have founded the International Camp Counselors Course.
This year’s ICCC (the sixth year that it has operated was held at the Robin Hood/Motorcamp/Karolina camp site south of Moscow and welcomed camp directors and staff from camps in several other regions from Russia as well as a team of business students from a nearby university. The leadership each year has come from a wide range of international camp communities. Presenters from camps in Turkey, Germany, Canada, USA and South Africa have been invited over the years. They have brought fresh ideas to keep the growth of Russian camps equally fresh. Each presenter has also been overwhelmed by the quality, energy and commitment of the young people in attendance.
No director works alone and Taras has gathered around him an exceptional team of young camp directors and camp professionals - providing them with both opportunity and inspiration to make a difference in the world. 
This year's three day workshop included both keynote presentations and breakout sessions. Harry Cunningham from England with camping background in USA, Croatia and South Africa and John Jorgenson from ICF joined the great leadership team from Camp Industry. 

Camping Fellowship
May, 27, 2015
Click here for more

Under Construction