Paying Attention to the Women Behind the CurtainWhen you think Wayfinder a specific image probably comes to mind. Something involving a group of children dressed in tunics carrying foam weapons and sporting names like “Shadow” or “Everheart.” (Everheart being the name of my next character.) If you’ve been to our camp, or if you’ve talked to (or more likely raised) one of our participants you probably also associate a certain look for joy with the whole atmosphere. Sit in on any circle and you’re guaranteed to find that look. Easy smile. Shining eyes. Relaxed posture. Those moments are a big part of what keeps everyone coming back to the camp, regardless of their role in it. The kids come because they love it, because there’s nowhere else that offers the mix of fantasy adventures and friendship that Wayfinder has brought to the Hudson Valley. The staff come because they’ve been doing it forever, because the people there are their community, and they want to give back that experience to the next generation of participants. What keeps our overlords (Read the company’s Directors Corinne McDonald and Trine Boode-Petersen) in that place of joy? They’re very clear on why they took things over from the original owners of the company, a group of 30 odd friends who started it back in 2001. There was a call for someone to step up and run things, Corrie and Trine rose to the occasion, if they had not the camp would have stopped running in 2012. The two of them offered similar sentiments on what drove their decision. “Trine and I have been working camp consistently for so many years the idea of not going to Woodstock Day School and running camp with the kids, and seeing eight year olds get in the first time when they’ve been waiting for years to play, and not having overnight, where our participants have a chance to be unashamed in their power and be completely themselves and really seen, was just heartbreaking.” The work of building both a space for that kind of play and that kind of empowerment are central to the joy that permeates the community. While Corrie had provided a view on why they did what they initially did, Trine was able to voice what pushed them moving forward. “We knew campers who needed that safe space, and we didn’t know where else they’d find it. It was a responsibility to our community to keep that available to them.” The calling was clear, and they have risen to that task. Moving forward the challenges they have been presented with are some that often plague the small business owner, but with a particularly poignant twist. The balance of business and personal in a passionate workplace can be a hard one to maintain. For a company like Wayfinder, where the business is strictly personal, it is nigh on impossible to avoid those kinds of struggles. In Trine’s words: “This is fifty percent business and fifty percent community, and we’re always trying to balance what’s good for the community and what’s good for the business.” Both were certain on what ends up winning that struggle. When I asked, the resounding answer was community. While the struggle continues on in everyday business decisions, Trine shed some light on how they have found a way to mitigate some of the difficulty. “The more we envision what our end goal is, the easier it is to make business and community decisions line up. The more we work to one common end goal of good, the easier that is.” And Wayfinder has that end goal. While looking to maintain the communal air and quality of programming, Wayfinder is searching for a permanent home in the form of land. Land where we can build permanent installations and both house our equipment and run our programming. Another challenge they have faced is the shifting of roles. Going from being someone on site, particularly in the camp director role which both Trine and Corrie often found themselves in, to someone in more of an administrative role comes with some hardships. For one you are removed from that kind of hands on time with the kids and staff, and two, moved to a drier (often literally), more bland environment. The work itself also loses some of the sense of urgency. On site work at camp is a lot of putting out fires and dealing with concerns within time constraints. The work in front of our overlords now is stretched over a significantly longer span. Moving into that kind of role can make someone feel out of place when they return to camp time. While they both say they’ve found comfort in the role, Corrie said it was difficult in the first year or so. “I found myself looking around for an adult, and you realize that you are that adult, so you look around for a more adult adult, somebody who is adulting better, and that just didn’t exist.” Personally there is no one other than Corrie and Trine I would rather have as the most adult adults around. Closing Remarks: Corinne McDonald: Running Wayfinder has never been just about this community, and making sure this community maintains itself, or making a successful business. It has been about a change that will transform the world. It’s not just a summer camp, and it’s not just this community, the goal is to make incredibly empowered and conscientious people who will go out and change the world in a positive way, and that I think is why we’re doing it. It’s that that keeps me sane in the current climate, knowing that I am creating generations of passionate people who are working for a better world makes it worth it for me.
Trine Boode-Petersen: Having [Wayfinder] be a thing that transforms people into better people who are more compassionate, better community members, and people who advocate for what’s right. That’s what’s in my heart. I think the whole world will just be better if people take more time to play. Playing doesn’t mean you aren’t a serious person that takes things seriously, it means you are able to relax, enjoy the moment, enjoy the world you’re in, have fun with what you’re doing, and approach things in a creative and playful manner while still doing something new. I think a lot of the things people create in the world would be improved if they had a playful outlook on it. Post written by Judson Easton Packard