Jess started their journey with Eddie Rice Camps in 2010. Over many camps, Jess became the go to volunteer to either lead a camp song (Highland Goat being a favourite), or work 1:1 with children who needed a bit of extra TLC. For over a decade Jess has been a dedicated supporter of Edmund Rice Camps SA. Here's some of their reflections on their time with ERCSA:
"I've known ERCSA in several different forms over the last 10 years, and I am constantly amazed and in awe at the innovative, compassionate, and intensely kind accomplishments they've achieved, and the ways they find to enact positive, meaningful, empowering change in the world. But I'm simultaneously not surprised at all, because ERCSA and its volunteers are incredible, wonderful people who can do anything.
I wish people could understand the indescribable feeling of joy when a camp is in full swing. I wish people could understand how life-affirming an experience it is to volunteer on one. How much it shapes your whole self, and imparts immense value in you. How much it is strengthened by the belief of its community.
I wish my friends who've never been on an ERCSA camp could comprehend how impactful it's been on who I am."
ERCSA gave me space to be my authentic self before I knew what that was. They let me try on new ways of being. They showed me different roles I could play, and challenged me to learn every opportunity I could. They showed me what it meant to slow down, appreciate life, and what true friendship and loyalty was. They showed me that my gender didn't matter, and that I could be anyone I wanted to be. And they did all of this without explicitly doing any of it - they gave me space and trusted my growth. I'm forever grateful.
The ERCSA community and ERCSA volunteers believed in my abilities to lead, to coordinate, to perform, and to step up before I saw them in myself. If it wasn't for them, I would not have the confidence and strength I have today, and I would not be pursuing the opportunities I am today.
My experiences as a volunteer are one of only a few experiences (professional or personal) as an adult that I feel proud, confident, grateful, empowered, and joy when I look back at them. They are the reason I want to find work empowering children and young people, despite studying and working in other fields. They are largely the reason I still believe I have skills, professional knowledge, and useful experiences.
ERCSA gave me purpose when my university and work were lacking it. They gave me a place to exist in, engage with, learn from, and be vocal in when that wasn't appreciated at home. They helped me believe in the world when I didn't see anything worth believing in anymore, and they helped me believe in myself when I didn't see anything worthy there, either.
They showed me what a caring, kind, and considerate family looks like, what a supportive, engaged, loving community looks like, what compassion looks like, and what powerful, meaningful advocacy and change looks like. Having these examples to carry through my life means I can create spaces, communities, and families like these, and find places that reflect these qualities.
I still know all the words to Highland Goat, all six verses. I just wish I had more places to sing it."
This story was shared as part of our 30 years of ERCSA celebrations. Our thanks to Jess for sharing their story. If ERCSA has impacted your life in any way over the last 30 years, you can share that story here.