ICF History

Canada and Russia in Cyprus - L-R - Jeff Bradshaw, Valentina Kaitrova, John Jorgenson, Sergey Slepov, Nina Tulubenskaya, Tamara Truschkovskaya (May 2001)

In 1987, the 2nd International Congress was held in Washington D.C. There were more than 1800 people from 15 different countries. The largest delegation was from Canada (250). There was a wonderful concert by Up with People and an address by the First Lady - Mrs. Reagan. The conference ended with a slide show depicting the rich tapestry of activity and exchange that had taken place. Chuck Ackenbom was one of the chairs of that Conference. He was unaware at that time of another meeting that was taking place during the four days. While the conference was unfolding, a group of people calling itself the International Camping Fellowship met and later made a declaration to the conference announcing its formation and basic operating principles.

At the Congress, the Butterfly was born. It grew out of the theme of "Our Fragile World" - the theme of the 1987 Congress. The ICF has since adopted it as its Official Logo. (More history of the ICF Butterfly was presented at the closing of ICC 2000).

Part of the promise made in 1987 was the commitment to meet within the next year. Consequently, the following people gathered for a meeting in the summer of 1988 at Camp Tawingo, Huntsville Canada: Armand Ball, Dick Chamberlain of the USA; Bill Bowker, Don MacDowall of Australia; Bob Metcalf of Great Britain; Sako Tanaka of Japan and Far East; Jack Pearse from Canada; Teresa Lucas of Latin America. Also invited, but unable to attend, was Frances Donkor from Africa. Dick Chamberlain was selected to be the Chair. Armand Ball was selected to be the Secretary, Treasurer, Newsletter Editor and Membership Registrar.

In 1990, Valery Kostin was selected to be the first Camp Director from the Soviet Union to attend a major camping conference in North America. He was invited to address the Conference and was surprised at the surprise of the audience over the information he had to share. He announced that the Soviet Union had, at that time, more than 100,000 camps.

Many countries believed that their camping associations were leading the way in the camping movement. It was plain to see that the USSR was a great leader in camping, as well. It was a wonderful sharing time for both the Soviet Union and the rest of the camping world as we began to understand that the camping movement is bigger than anyone thought possible and certainly bigger than any one camping association.

In 1994, the CCA, ACA and OCA agreed come together to host KUMBAYAH. "Kumbayah" means "Come by Here" and the Congress represented the first time that ICF was identified as an official sponsoring body of a major training event. The Third International Camping Congress in Toronto was held with five official languages: English, French, Spanish, Russian and Japanese.

Peter Paul and Mary 21 were to give a concert but Mary was not able to attend and so Peter, Paul and Jack Pearse led over 2000 people in the singing of Kumbayah. The benefits of hosting that event are long lasting and are still being felt in Ontario and across Canada. The Steering Committee met after the Congress and made the decision to encourage the first ever International Congress outside North America by committing to the young St. Petersburg and Russian Camping Associations for the Fourth International Congress in St. Petersburg, Russia.

During those years, there was a great deal of camping discussion and activity taking place throughout the camping world. The ICF had been originally formed to bring individuals to a common conversation about camping. It had the secondary object and effect of encouraging those individuals to gather in association with their peers in their various countries. Camping Associations began to emerge in Colombia, Venezuela, Mexico, Malaysia and Australia. Armand Ball has been an important stimulus and leader in the ongoing development of camping associations in many of these countries that have been mentioned.

In Australia, through the 1980’s, support for camping was primarily supplied through the state government departments responsible for education and recreation. In Victoria, the government was eager to see the camping movement become more independent. As a result of a meeting in November of 1982 and an address by Armand Ball at that meeting, the Camping Association was soon formed. Tom Slater was its inaugural President. He went on to attend the 1987 International Congress in Washing-ton and delivered that important ICF declaration to the delegation there. (As an aside, Tom Slater is the Pro-gram Chair of the 6th International Camping Congress in 2003.)

In 1989, a group of camp directors assembled in Caracas to form the Associacion Venezuelana de Campamentos (AVC). A delegation travelled to the 1990 ACA Conference in Boston to introduce themselves to the North American camping community (they met Valery from the Soviet Union at the event). Every spring, on May 1, in Caracas, there is camp association training event of over 800 camp staff.

There has been a regular infusion of international leadership by ICF members and the ICF Steering Committee at this Conference. There is now a committed group of camping professionals working in Latin America. Once more, Armand Ball continued to be instrumental in providing the on-going support necessary for a young association to grow and develop.

European camping may be considered from three different perspectives. The European Community countries have had a long history of camping for youth that is a little different from our traditional or commonly held view of the camp. They are often called holiday camps and holiday centres. They do not seem to centre their program philosophy around the education and developmental opportunities that camps naturally provide and that drive many of our approaches. Instead, the focus is on providing safe, led excursions of a recreational nature in a variety of settings - from urban to rural.

The Eastern European communities continue to develop in much the same way as the CIS. They are suffering from severe economic and social challenges but they are working to provide a valuable and much needed service to their communities.

The Balkans are facing grief and challenges in the aftermath of the war that has torn this area apart. Children from this area have been brought to various camps in Greece to enjoy a safe, nourishing and supportive setting. Meanwhile, the Greek Camping Association was formed in 1993 with the help of ICF. There are many types of camps; the earliest were established by the state (90 years ago) to ease the effects of economic, political and military strife. Now there are camps run by municipalities, churches, public/private corporations and private enterprises. All are members of the GCA and are contributing to the evolution of camping.

In 1997, Russia hosted the 4th International Camp Congress. The St Petersburg Camping Association formed in 1992 and with the help of the education department, local government and the newly formed national camping organization in 1993 agreed to host this event. It was an enormous challenge for a young organization. The opportunity to declare a leadership position for camping in Russia and to receive the support of ICF leaders around the world was a very important step for camping in Russia at that time.

The Soviet camps were primarily a product of state industries, governments and labour unions. When Russia emerged from the Soviet Bloc, it was important to learn how to recruit effectively in order to keep these camps alive. International assistance was very important as a balance of private and agency camps developed. It is significant that the delegation at this event (ICC 2000 in Tokyo) consists of camp directors, government officials, business professionals and others who can see the value and importance of camping in the development of Russia and see its impact on the world.

The eyes of the American people were further opened in 1997. It was a surprise for some camp directors to learn that so many great and wonderful things were going on in the name of camping around the world. Through the efforts of Dick Chamberlain and Armand Ball working for the ICF, ICF/USA began to educate the camping community to the things that were going on globally. The ACA as an organization began to open its eyes as more and more people from other countries have attended ACA Conferences. The numbers of international attendees has increased each year. There is now an official international liaison to the ACA Conference to ensure that delegates from other countries are welcomed and oriented properly.

In Canada, organized children's camping has been long established. There are over 730 camps in Canada and of that approximately 300 are from Ontario. In February 2000 at the Ontario Camping Association, we were able to conduct an international evening to celebrate the diversity of camping in Japan. Currently Canada is exploring a relationship with the Canadian Olympic Association to define Camp Values in terms of Olympic Values and vice versa.

The International Camping Fellowship generates a warmth from Congress to Congress. ICF Japan gathers periodically for meetings and workshops. At these gatherings, members gather to discuss why we are doing what we are doing; what does internationalism mean; how can we do more.

The next International Camping Congress is in Australia in 2003. We hope that you will nurture the warmth of the feelings generated here and carry the torch of camping to Australia at that time. Delegates will come to see it and to learn about the unusual model of school camping that Australia has to offer.

Between now and Australia there are two more ICF Annual Meetings. In April 2001, we will meet in Cyprus for ICF Steering Committee and Annual Meetings. In February 2002, we will gather in Washington for the same reason at the ACA National Conference.

At the ICF is currently working on a number of initiatives. The ICF is committed to continuing to foster relationships that bring the world closer together - through children, through adults and through meaningful outdoor experiences.

Here is an interesting fact about our Congresses. There were 150 delegates who came to North America in 1994 and most of whom came with the help of some form of financial assistance. At Nevsky Forum and ICC 2000, over 175 people have come at their own expense. As well, some new representatives have joined us with a little scholarship help. Most of these new delegates have committed to ICF from their own budgets. People are joining the cause.

We are sharing program ideas around the world: from International Camp Day at your camp to individual camping resources. We are encouraging more effective representation on our Steering Committee so that all countries and regions can bring a voice to the ICF conversations. ICF is exploring sources of scholarship funds to stimulate local camping development through participation in international camping events. We are encouraging the spreading of the ICF Butterfly through the sale of the ICF Flag.

There are several benefits of membership: Newsletter, Resource Directory, Reduced Rates at certain events, Direct Listing on the ICF Website. The real benefits are less tangible: the feelings like those we have generated at this Conference, the opportunities for exchanges of campers, staff and information.