One of the problems that everyone who is, or has been, involved with ATE Superweeks (or Colony Holidays before them) has is the extreme difficulty one finds in explaining to other people what on Earth it is.
It can be difficult enough to explain to friends and family, who generally have the good grace to at least pretend to listen, nod wisely, and then simply accept that you have had some form of seizure and will no doubt be better soon, but of course the real difficulty is presented by what is undoubtedly the most important task of all, that of explaining effectively what ATE is, and what benefits it can bring, to people who might then actually consider allowing their children to come on a Superweek.
You get the usual ‘Frequently Asked Questions’,
“So,—is it for children with special needs?”.
“No, not really, it’s more..”
“So, it’s a religious organisation then??”
“No, no, it has no religious affiliation at all, it’s more a sort of..”,
“Outward Bound sort of thing?…”.
Of course, by this time the person you are trying to explain it all to has long since lost all interest and has stopped listening to the extent that even if they are polite enough to stay in your immediate vicinity, they are mentally looking at their watch and wondering what’s for tea.
A good start is initially to say what ATE has, rather than what it is. And easier still to say what it does not have!
ATE does not have it’s own buildings (the office, like the centres used for Superweeks, are rented), it does not have lots of (or indeed any) expensive equipment, and it does not have any money. With respect to this last one, our claims to be a ‘not for profit’ organisation can certainly be fully and enthusiastically endorsed by our auditors.
What ATE does have is over 50 years of experience in looking after children who are away from home, often for the first time and usually alone, and in training the young adults who will look after them.
This 50 years or so has involved a continuous chain of people who have come to believe passionately in the value of residential summer camps to children, and many of these people have gone on to be senior and very well respected educationalists in their own right. Because of the nature of ATE and how it operates, each of these people has been able to, and has been actively encouraged to, contribute their own opinions, thoughts and ideas to the accumulated wisdom which is ATE’s real legacy.
In this way, ATE can claim, with some justification, to have become an expert (I would say the leading expert) in providing both children, and the young adults who work with them with life-changing and life-affirming experiences of residential communal living.
In the final analysis, what ATE actually has is a system of training which incorporates wisdom and good common sense with rigour and empathy, a huge and uniquely varied list of activities which can be employed with the widest possible range of children in the widest possible range of settings, a large body of loyal and enthusiastic customers, and a huge body of incredibly loyal and committed staff.
What ATE actually is, is an organisation which tries to make the best possible use of these things by giving as many children and young adults as possible access to them.
It needs and deserves as much help as possible.