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A Place to Belong

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We all come into this world wanting the same thing: to belong. We have our families, our friends, our pets, and our favorite pastimes, but all too often we lose sight of actually belonging to something in favor of having things that belong to us. I know I lost sight of that for a while. I was so caught up with having a degree, having a relationship, having friends, having things; that I realized only too late that when one peg was removed from the perilous tower of my life, everything crashed down in a spectacular mess.

It was in that darkness that a tiny light was brought to me. This light came in the shape of a dear friend, a casual conversation, a deepened connection, and the mention of this wondrous and far away place where the people there love for the sake of love and eagerly give more than they could ever receive. Hard to believe, but this little light was truly the only glimmer of hope I could perceive. So with nothing to do and even less to lose, I decided to take my friend’s hand and give everything I am to this mythic place called Camp Alkulana. I owe my life to that decision.

For one to say that Alkulana is just a summer camp would be a staggeringly uninformed understatement. To me, Alkulana is now home. This place brings me a sensation I truly believed I would never find again. It brings me something to live for, people to love fully, a community to work every second of my life into. Every day I wake up at Alkulana I can feel in my heart that I am where I am needed. There’s this burning feeling in me to help, to do for someone else, to make someone else’s day easier in any way I can. And to live and work with people who share that drive and passion entrenches my soul in the mountain soil where my roots entwine and grow strong with theirs. I have never before found a community that wants me as much as I want to be a part of it, that makes me feel like my actions matter and my ideas and skills are useful and even needed. I smile brightly through tears as the summer and camp life is coming to a close, but that sorrow is without fear. For within the people, place, and memories that make Alkulana, I made a difference, I mattered, I belonged. I belong.

by Gabriel Perez

Gabriel has just completed his first summer as a camp counselor at Camp Alkulana.

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