International staff are a huge part of Lutheran Outdoor Ministries in Ohio. This last summer we had counselors serve at our camps from England, China, Australia, Ireland and India. They come with a completely different background and share their enthusiasm with hundreds of youth campers every summer. They only can work in the summer with a continued partnership with our government.
In April, President Trump signed an Executive Order to “Buy American and Hire American”. For summer camps, this could eliminate the J-1 Visa, which includes the Camp Counselor and Summer SWT (Summer Work Travel) programs.
We wanted to take a moment to share an article written by Kham, an international counselor from India. If you want to do more, please see the below article with a link to get involved.
Take a moment and learn about our friend Kham.
I'm 26 years old and hold a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) from Martin Lutheran Christian University, Shillong, Meghalaya, India. I am a loyal young Lutheran from Manipur Evangelical Lutheran Church. I belong to the Smallest Tribes Zo/Zou community existing in Churachandpur District of Manipur State. I belong to a country where Hindu is a majority when it comes to faith. I want to travel around the world, experience new information and knowledge to my homeland. I also want to pursue a Masters of Social Work (MSW) as I want to bring change in my community.
It's a wonderful experience for me to be an International Camp counselor/ Summer Camp 2017 in United States of America.
I would say being a summer camp counselor is a life transforming or life changing opportunity for me as my three months experience taught me a lot. Most importantly it molded my personality and developed my faith towards Christ.
My experience as a Camp Counselor also inspired me to establish Summer Camp in India as we don't have this opportunity for Children and youth to develop their faith in Christ. This could be a great opportunity for Lutherans worldwide to work together and support for expanding God's word in the lives people who never heard about the Gospel.
Meeting people, making new friends and having the opportunity to share the love of God in the hearts of children is a great moment that I saw God.
As a camp counselor I learned that there is nothing more important than having Jesus Christ, because through Christ nothing is impossible.
I also want to extend my sincere thanks to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), Manipur Evangelical Lutheran Church (MELC), my host Camp Mowana/LOMO and to all my host family for this amazing opportunity which I will never forget in my life.
My prayer is always with the organizers of summer camp in United States. May God bless U.S.A. to spread the Gospel worldwide.
I have a dream to introduce Summer Camp in India.
Khamlianlal International Camp Counsellor 2017
My name is Khamlianlal (@Khams Zotal), Humanitarian activist and Founding Director of a humanitarian organization for the Northeast FoodBanking Network (NeFN).
A Thought to Consider
“Buy American, Hire American” Threatens the Camping Industry
Mitch & Stephanie Reiter
For over 25 years, Owners & Directors of Camp Towanda, the premier, privately-owned, co-ed sleepaway camp in the Poconos, PA. www.camptowanda.com
A portion of their blog is below. For the full article please follow the link at the bottom of the page.
In April, President Trump signed an Executive Order to “Buy American and Hire American”. For summer camps, this could eliminate the J-1 Visa, which includes the Camp Counselor and Summer SWT (Summer Work Travel) programs. Both of these programs contribute significantly to the health and vitality of camp businesses and have been in effect since 1961.
In addition to the educational and cultural impact, the economic and business impact of J-1 Visa program is equally significant. College students in America have many choices today how to spend their summers. Camp recruiters are competing with coveted internships, local jobs and summer college programs. Camps depend on international staff to supplement the American staff they work so hard year-round to recruit. The positions filled by the international staff complement and add to the program, they do not take away American jobs. Without international staff, camps would not be able to fill those positions.
What does this mean for your camp? Time will tell. Some camps will be forced to close. Others may downsize. Many will need to figure out new staff recruiting strategies. All camps will take a big financial hit.
Outside of our camping industry, the ripple effect of the J-1 Visa program is tremendous. Before, during and after the camp season, international staff travel throughout the US. They spend money at local restaurants and shops (often in small rural towns), they go to concerts, they buy plane tickets and train tickets, they rent cars and travel to Times Square and throughout the country. They become global ambassadors of the United States and encourage their friends to visit and spend their money. They “Buy American”.
If camps struggle, it would negatively impact many local towns that support them. An economic impact study of the northeast region of the country showed more than 6,000 state licensed camps have a direct economic contribution of nearly $3.2 billion on local economies. These camps pay more than $1.1 billion in local, state, and federal income taxes. That figure, multiplied by the thousands of camps across the country illustrates the total economic impact of the camp industry.
So now what?
The American Camping Association (ACA) has mobilized a great effort for its constituents to reach out to local and national government officials and make their voices heard. There is still time to contact your local representatives; please call or email them today. Make sure they how understand the J-1 Visa directly impacts you and your family. Other industries like tourism, hospitality and the Au Pair program are also part of the J-1 Visa and SWT programs and vulnerable. Click here and contact President Trump and your representatives. The issue is urgent and pressing.
We are working with the ACA in any way we can, but it will take many voices to make an impact. If the program is compromised there are no winners. In the end the campers and international students will be shortchanged of this amazing opportunity to exchange cultures, learn from and live with each other. The negative economic impact would be widespread well beyond the camping industry. At our camp we have a saying that we do things “for the good of camp”. Along those lines, eliminating the J-1 Visa program goes against what this administration is trying to achieve...it is not “for the good of America.”