Giant ‘leap of faith’ takes Annabelle to top US camp

Annabelle takes a trapeze ride at Camp Robindel.  (Picture supplied).
Annabelle takes a trapeze ride at Camp Robindel. (Picture supplied).

While millions of people watched Andy Murray win a gold medal in tennis at this summer’s Olympics in London, Annabelle Slator was starstruck by the potential of a future Wimbledon star who also happens to be the daughter of US President Barack Obama.

Annabelle (20) from Holbeach took a well-earned break from her English language and creative writing degree studies at DeMontfort University in Leicester to take up an eight-week job looking after a group of 11-year-old girls at a summer camp in the USA.

Summer camp staff take a break after climbing a fire tower in New Hampshire, USA: (from left) - Zuzana Telepovska, Annabelle Slator, Steven Amerson, Heather Hubert, Sarah Jean Jesseman and Julie Thomas.

Summer camp staff take a break after climbing a fire tower in New Hampshire, USA: (from left) - Zuzana Telepovska, Annabelle Slator, Steven Amerson, Heather Hubert, Sarah Jean Jesseman and Julie Thomas.

“I don’t have any end-of-term exams for my degree which is made up entirely of coursework,” she said.

“I had five months off in the summer and thought ‘I have to do something.’

“I looked around for summer jobs abroad and came across an organisation called BUNAC.”

Young people have been able to apply for volunteering and work opportunities around the world through BUNAC for 50 years, with North America being one of the most popular destinations.

Annabelle had to go through an interview and two-week training course before taking charge of her group of girls as a counsellor at Camp Robindel on the banks of Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire.

She said: “I was a bit apprehensive because I didn’t know anyone who had done a summer camp before and I wasn’t really aware of what they were until started researching them for myself.

“It was a leap of faith for me, but luckily I went to one of the top five camps in the USA.

“The people who run Camp Robindel are in their late 60s and really know stuff as they’ve been there for 40 years.

“I lived in a cabin with the girls, took them to their individual activities and played games with them like Capture the Flag, an American version of British Bulldog that is very popular at summer camps.”

A typical day for Annabelle started at 8am when she woke up the girls for breakfast at 8.30am and cabin clean-up at 9am before taking part in a full day of activities, including sailing, horse riding and rock climbing supervised by Annabelle.

She said: “Nothing can prepare you for camp before you get there when you’re thrown into a complete bubble with a whole new set of friends who end up becoming like your family.

“It was hard not to bond with the girls because for some, camp is like their second home.

“Having an English accent helped me quite a lot and the girls were amazed by my blonde hair because they all had dark hair.”

One girl Annabelle didn’t get the chance to meet was Malia Obama (14) who impressed excited onlookers in a tennis tournament played at Camp Robindel.

“We weren’t told when Malia was coming and I didn’t know that a lot of older girls who were at camp had met her before,” Annabelle said.

“We had breakfast as normal before the girls started cleaning our cabin.

“Suddenly they dropped their brooms and ran to one of the windows.

“I asked them what was going on and they said ‘the President’s daughter is here and she’s playing tennis’.

“She was only at camp for about four hours, but she was very good and it was also fascinating watching the security men with their earpieces who were with her all the time.

“Malia was about a yard away from me at one stage but I wasn’t allowed to take photos of her.”

Annabelle plans to work abroad in the USA again next summer – but this time on the west coast in California.

She said: “Summer camp opened my eyes to the fact that there’s so much out there and it’s given me the confidence to be more independent.

“It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done – but also the best thing I’ve ever done.”

n To find out more about BUNAC working and volunteering opportunities abroad, visit www.bunac.org or call 020 7251 3472.