International camp counselors at the Phoebe Needles Center

International camp counselors (left to right) Christinea Thomas, Jamaica, Dan Watson, England, Mariana Avendano, Mexico and Andrea Garcia Vera, Mexico, will spend their summer at the Phoebe Needles Center in Callaway.

No passport is necessary this summer for campers at the Phoebe Needles Center in Callaway to experience life as it is known in Jamaica, England and Mexico. The ways of life of these countries have come to Phoebe Needles with this year’s recent arrival of four international camp counselors.

Christinea Thomas, 24, comes from St. Catherine, Jamaica. This is her second year with Camp Staff USA, having worked at a camp last year in North Carolina which is affiliated with the organization.

Dan Watson, 18, hails from Brampton, England through the Camp America organization. This is his second trip to the United States, having come to the U.S. when he was 10 to visit Disney World.

Mariana Avendano, 22, comes from Puebla City, Mexico. She had been to the U.S. when she was young, but this is her first time to come alone. She is with Camp Staff USA.

Andrea Garcia Vera, 22, comes from Merida, Yucatan, Mexico. It is her first time to the U.S. and to travel alone. She is also with Camp Staff USA.

Camp Staff USA and Camp America are staffing companies that provide camps and counselors with an international cultural exchange.

The counselors arrived the last week of June and have been busy with preparations for the June 10 arrival of campers. They have engaged in a number of training and activities and have quickly bonded with the other staff.

“The counselors all clicked the first night we were together,” Watson commented. “They treat us really well here. They have taken us to a ball game and out to dinner.”

In talking with the young people, it appears the summer camps Americans are accustomed to in the U.S. are not a part of life in these other countries.

At Phoebe Needles, campers have the opportunity to engage in a number of activities including hiking, the climbing tower, swimming, low and high ropes course, games, rock climbing and rappelling, arts and crafts, caving, archery, music, camping, nature activities, community service and more.

Some of these activities are new to the counselors, but they seem eager to try and learn new things.

“Even if I’m scared of it (mostly high things like rock climbing and the ropes), I have to try it,” Vera said.

Thomas said she hopes to use her time with the international staff at the center to learn to swim and speak Spanish.

“This girl is going to conquer,” Thomas said.

Thomas and Watson are taking the opportunity to learn some Spanish from Avendano and Vera.

The internationals are very supportive and complimentary of one another. Thomas spoke warmly of how Vera is so “soulful with her music (guitar and singing).”

“I love to sing and play the guitar,” Vera said. “It is an activity that just fills me. Music has no barriers of language and culture. It helps to express our feelings.”

The counselors spoke of the beauty and peacefulness of the camp surroundings, commenting on how they could see the people here care about nature and the environment.

They remarked on the area’s lack of litter and the friendliness of local people.

In addition to wanting to work with children and travel, the counselors each had their own individual goals for their work at Phoebe Needles this summer.

For Thomas, who has been studying social work and will next be pursuing her master’s degree in psychology, her desire is to share her culture with children who may never have heard of Jamaica.

For Watson, who has finished his schooling for now and who loves to coach 7-10 year olds in soccer, working at Phoebe Needles fulfills the desire he has always had to travel and work abroad.

For Avendano, who swam on her college team, studied international affairs and will be starting her master’s degree most likely in business or economics, her motivation is to improve her English listening and speaking skills and learn to adapt to new cultures.

Vera, who is in her last year of college studying psychology and planning to earn a master’s degree, hopes to learn about a different culture, work with kids of different ages and to practice her English.

The counselors find it to be more affordable and the portions bigger. The Mexican ladies miss the condiments for making food hotter. Vera commented on there being a lot of fast food in the U.S. Thomas, Avendano and Vera are eager to try barbeque.

The counselors will complete their time at Phoebe Needles on July 29. They will have two weeks before leaving the country, so most of the quartet will be visiting more of the U.S.

There are still openings for the day and residential camps. Day camps cost $90 and residential camps cost $225. Scholarships are available. Call 540-483-1518 or go online at

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