Wilderness Works is sleep-away camp for city kids

A classic Wilderness Works selfie.
A classic Wilderness Works selfie.

Do you remember your first summer camp experience? Mine was a little traumatic. I was away from my parents for the first time and I was worried about making friends with the girls in my cabin. Even worse to the 9-year-old female psyche, I had to fix my own frizzy, unmanageable hair by myself each morning without the help of my mother’s practiced hands.  I remember I missed my parents a little, but by the end of camp I made great friends and exciting memories. And I don’t remember worrying much about my hair.

The typical Emory student could probably recount her memories of her first summer of camp, or of her many summers of camp that followed, however similar to or different from my own experience. But many kids grow up never going to camp, especially children growing up homeless or disadvantaged in some of Atlanta’s poorest neighborhoods. Wilderness Works, located on Memorial Drive, just north of Zoo Atlanta seeks to change that.

Emory students lend a hand during Wilderness Works' Arts and Crafts time at WonderRoot fall 2011.
Emory students lend a hand during Wilderness Works’ Arts and Crafts time at WonderRoot fall 2011.

The organization is run out of a re-purposed old church and Bible college. During the school year, Wilderness Works puts on educational and enrichment programs, both at the center and around Atlanta, in the afternoons and on weekends. A dusty church library serves as a game room, the fellowship hall and kitchenette function as a mess hall, and old Sunday school rooms house colorful, cozy barracks for the dozens of boys and girls who come to stay for overnight programs known as City Camps. The floorboards creak and the whole place smells of your grandmother’s closet, but it’s well-used and well-loved. In the summer, Wilderness Works staff leads the children on summer camp excursions in northeast Georgia and North Carolina.

Wilderness Works is constantly looking for young, motivated people to mentor their kids. You can sign up with a school organization or group of friends to serve a meal or chaperon a City Camp during the school year. Volunteering with this organization is much more than a community service bullet on your resume. The children are energetic and eager to connect and learn, and the staff is passionate about the kids and their cause.

As a City Camp counselor, you won’t get much sleep and you definitely won’t get a shower, but you’ll have a lot of fun sharing in these children’s first “camp” experience.