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Letter from Matt – Camp Dudley News

April, 2020

Like a lot of other things that happen here at Camp Dudley, the Spain Exchange program started with a casual conversation. After decades of successful exchanges at Camp Abbensen in Germany—and excited about an increased demand for travel spots—we were eager to launch a new Spain program in 2015. Before we knew it, my own personal connections to the Spain YMCA were lining up with #12495 Fanning Hearon’s travel experience as a high school student in Valencia. Fanning introduced us to his host family from years prior, and, vamos! We had a program up and running that included international camping, tourism, and family homestays.

#16999 Jessica and I have just returned from an incredible visit to Spain where we got to share in some of the same experiences that our campers have each summer.

I tried new foods – I would consider myself adventurous when it comes to eating—but this time was the best. I tried exotic seafood, meats, cheeses and veggies that are not part of my usual diet and loved them. Campers get to try new meals that may seem strange or foreign; when they’re taking this leap alongside friends and cabinmates,  everything seems more appetizing.

I stepped outside of my comfort zone – I get to travel quite a bit in my role, and oftentimes, find myself presenting material in front of large groups of people. But here I was last week, outside of my own country, listening and sharing in a different language, through an entirely different cultural lens. Frankly, I was nervous. I got that same trepidation a camper feels when he’s away from home for the first time, or when she’s climbing the Kiniya

climbing tower for the very first time. Just like at Camp, I was surrounded by supportive friends, and it all worked out.

I made lifelong friends and we shared meaningful conversations – We spent a considerable amount of time with the Bello family in Valencia (Jess and Matt with Cristina, #25433 Ana, and #24558 Martin pictured above). We have come to know and love their kids, Ana and Martin, through their Camp and homestay visits here with us at Dudley and Kiniya. However, we had not spent much time with their parents. Juan and Cristina treated Jess and me like lifelong friends—even family. We took long walks and bike rides, met family friends, shared amazing meals, and had long talks about growing up, our faith and even world peace. These are the same kinds of connections I see forming at Camp each summer. Campers show up from different parts of the globe and build lasting friendships, one interaction and conversation at a time. They find themselves in meaningful conversations that can push each other—during vespers, on long hikes or around a campfire. It is in these intimate spaces—moving and seeing through a brand new lens—that we are able to bring different parts of the world to each other.

I am blessed to be able to visit so many amazing places during my travels. Just as at Camp, it is the exceptional people within the Dudley family who truly make it special. Let’s all keep spreading the Dudley magic, wherever we may be.

#13804 Matt Storey, Director, Camp Dudley