October Meeting With State & Bright Future For Cultural Exchange

bright-futureAs you may know the J-1 Camp Counselor category is in the midst of category review in advance of regulatory changes. Principals from the US Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs Private Sector Exchanges held a four-hour meeting with camp counselor sponsors on October 20th in Washington DC.  It was a veritable “who’s who” of sponsors and bureau officials. Some highlights:

  • Sponsors met in advance of the meetings during the course of the Annual Meeting of the Alliance for International Exchange.
  • The new Deputy Assistant Secretary (DAS), Keri Lowry,  addressed the group.  She has an awesome background in public service, most notably the Peace Corps.
  • Keri stressed Partnering Principles including equity and respect, transparency and trust, mutual benefit and sustainability.
  • The category review is halfway complete.  Conventional forecasts are that new regulations will be in place by the 2018 program season.
  • Policy Analyst Jennifer Nupp outlined observations from monitoring visits to camps.  They ranged from the positive to the negative and everything in between.
  • The definition of “category review” is very much an academic exercise and a research project on every available facet of the program and its constituencies.
  • We reviewed data from our collective thoughts on program strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and challenges (SWOC).
  • Breakout groups discussed the various implications of the SWOC analysis and we reported our findings.
  • We agreed that regulatory changes present as many if not more opportunities as challenges.
  • The strengths of the program in meeting public diplomacy goals appeared irrefutable.

After the meeting many of us met for drinks and social discussion at a nearby establishment with our colleagues at State.  The tone was one of upbeat cooperation, opportunity, healthy dialogue and professional bonding.  The new DAS is a breath of fresh air on many levels.  There is definitely a bright future for our very unique and special form of cultural exchange!

Enjoy the Holidays!

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Let’s extend a hearty welcome to Bridget Shanahan to the Camp America team! Best wishes to all for the Chanukah and Christmas seasons (or however you may celebrate) knowing that we appreciate our partnership in cultural exchange and all that you do to Bring the World Together. We are working hard to provide host camps the very best of staff and a wonderful experience at our upcoming Camp Directors’ Fairs. We are excited! Doubly exciting is our new Camp America Online portal with a contemporary look and feel. Technology is updated to accommodate tablet and phone functionality, it’s easier to navigate, and our applications are crisply presented and easy to view. It will be ready for launch by December 7th for the second day of Chanukah. Enjoy family and friends during this special time and let’s all be thankful for the true gift of camp!

Exclusive New Model For California – a Better Fit For Everyone!

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We have arrived at a new pricing formula for 2016 that we feel is the right fit for California and appreciate your partnership during its first year of formal implementation. We want to be on the vanguard of compliance on both federal and state levels and recognize the unique requirements in this popular destination for international staff.

Our first change is to greatly reduce camp fees by eliminating flight costs. Moving forward all participants placed in California will make their own travel arrangements, which does mean increased upfront costs for them. However they will also pay less to Camp America, and receive far higher compensation while at camp. We calculated this compensation based on California summer camp state minimum wage less allowable deductions for meals and lodging, as well as those for insurance costs that are included in our fee to camps. The net result is a solid financial package for participants, tailored to state requirements, that eliminates the need for camps to incur total costs over and above our published fee schedule. These simple changes significantly increase pocket money while keeping overall cost to your camp at affordable rates. Click here to view the new schedule.

We published this in August, and Account Representatives have begun to reach out to host camps to make sure that everything is clear to you. We are also working on resources for applicants that properly explain the special prospect of a California placement. The arrangement won’t be ideal for every applicant to the program, and we realize that some may reject it. However we expect that most will embrace the opportunity, and are confident that this is the right way forward for everyone.

Please get in touch anytime if you have any questions at all at 800.727.8233 Ext. 5107 or dregan@aifs.com

Camp America 2015… Bring It On!

2015 Staff II Of course without the gargantuan efforts of the global Camp America community and AIFS there wouldn’t be a program to implement. Nevertheless I wish to take a brief moment to pay tribute to the bright young people who face the task this summer of placing and supporting a program of over 7400 participants: our team in Stamford, Connecticut.

The Fairs and the conferences and the long weeks of placement and operations challenges are nearing close. You will make the final placements while providing sound counseling for staff going through rocky times. Windows of opportunity will widen with your efforts. Logistics and travel will be smooth and organized, and the arrivals hotel will go off like clockwork. There will be evenings, late nights, and early mornings of emergency duty officer activity. I anticipate deft management of group air space and individual flight bookings. Thousands of SEVIS records will glisten with compliant accuracy, and there will be meticulous government reporting. There will be crises and challenges, as well as hours of bright sunshine and fun during camp visits. You will balance participant advocacy with client relations and pretty much always manage to arrive at the fair and equitable solution to the thorniest of issues. You will earnestly care about our participants and their experiences and despite enormous pressure always attempt to do the right thing. No one will knowingly come to harm on your watch.

So here’s to you, bold soldiers of cultural exchange. May you weather the storm bravely and emerge victorious in the knowledge that the world is a better place for the position you chose to hold in it. I am boundlessly proud of you and grateful for the opportunity to share this season with you.

Thank you For Our 30th Annual Camp Directors’ Fairs!

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Thirty years ago we used 50 free tickets from British Airways to fly camp directors to Maria Assumpta Convent in Kensington London to interview and secure international staff.  AIFS was just 20 years old!  In 2015 we packed thousands into the QEII Conference Center in Westminster.  We were the first, and we are still the very, very best!!!

When I had the pleasure of introducing AIFS Chairman and founder Sir Cyril Taylor at our House of Parliament reception, I thanked four core constituencies.  Hundreds of camp directors and leadership staff took their personal and professional time to travel and hire with us.  Hip-hip-HOORAY!  Next is our AIFS Camp America London, Australia, New Zealand and Poland Teams that hosted us so successfully for our 30th annual events and generated over 6,500 bright, talented and energetic applicants. Hip-hip-HOORAY!   Kudos to the Connecticut Team for processing registrations and organizing logistics details for hundreds of camp professionals. 

Hip-hip-HOORAY for our applicants! Two thousand strong secured placements at the Fairs, and many more will be placed over the coming weeks. Let us be grateful for these young adventuresome international human resources.  May their J-1 cultural exchange experiences be a bright beacon of personal enrichment for the rest of their lives, and in the lives of those who will be similarly enriched by their participation and contributions to your camp communities.

Sincere thanks to all who made these Fairs happen and we look forward to our February London Fair with the same level of anticipation. 

Welcome Sam Roberts to the “Field” of Cultural Exchange

 

 It is not often that we welcome a client to the ranks of the Camp America program, and I am extremely pleased and fortunate to have Sam Roberts on our team as of October 1st.  Sam has always been a good friend of the program and now represents us from Gaithersburg Maryland as “Field Representative”.  While it may not sound as lofty as as his previous “executive director” status in the world of summer camp, I see it as a very appropriate title indeed. Continue reading

New Camp Directors’ Fair Website – One Week From Launch

CD Fair Site We have sent out our “soft launch” for 2015 including our published fee schedule and program highlights.  We are actively recruiting and applications will begin to appear in Camp America Online over the next few weeks.  I am super excited about our new website for the 2015 Fairs.  All we need are a few finishing touches on the online registration component and we should be able to push it out next week. Continue reading

There’s No Place Like Camp!

Camp is happening! All the camper and staff recruitment, purchasing, conferences, and program planning… all the self-assessment and standards prep… site maintenance and equipment inventory… menus, diets, meds, pick-ups, logistics, financials, cabin assignments and parent management… Camp is really here, and it may seem like your problems have only just started! Continue reading