Summer camp is an extraordinary experience for kids that cultivates friendship, learning new skills, and trying new activities with memories that last a lifetime. This rings true for Circle V Ranch Camp’s very own Souncirie Pandy, who has worked in various Circle V Ranch Camp positions for over 20 years. While Circle V impacted Souncirie’s life in many ways as an adult, her love for summer camp began at the age of 6 during her first experience as a camper. She continued attending summer camp each year after that throughout her childhood.
Fast forward to her college years when her brother, who at the time was a counselor at Circle V, raved about what a great youth program it was and how much he loved working there. She was looking for a fun summer job and decided to apply as a counselor. That’s when roles shifted, and Souncirie went from being an avid camper to leading young campers as a counselor.
She vividly recalls her first day as a counselor at Circle V when she arrived late on a cold day and realized she didn’t pack one jacket for the entire camp season. Wasn’t it summer after all? Another counselor took notice and, without hesitation, gave her her own sweatshirt. Souncirie knew she was in a good place when a stranger took a sweater off their back to give to someone in need. 20 years later, these two celebrated their friendaversary! Souncirie says, “You come to camp not knowing anyone and walk away becoming a family. No matter what happens, at the end of the day, you experience things together, and that unique experience creates lasting relationships. Not everyone can say that.”
As a counselor at Circle V, Souncirie knew she had an important job, not only for the organization but especially for the campers. She would do her best to demonstrate kindness, faith, and love, which was also an integral part of camp’s daily activities. Each morning campers would wake the cafeteria with faith-filled singing or reciting simple prayers together every evening before dinner. In these simple moments, Souncirie felt incredibly grateful for the opportunity to guide campers in this way. It was a small yet significant ritual that kids could use no matter where they are in life or what they may be experiencing to help bring them back to love and their faith.
Mornings held another faith-filled activity where campers would meet outside the chapel for a moment of reflection and prayer. Souncirie remembers one message that shared the theme that God doesn’t make mistakes and that we’re all here for a reason, even if we look and feel differently than others. She witnessed the truth in this message during another camp activity where counselors share life lessons through fun storytelling and skits, all while engaging with youth. During this activity, a camper with autism went up to participate in a skit. For this moment, the child overcame their speech impediment and broke through their shell, something that would typically freeze them in their tracks and lead them down a stuttering spiral. It was clear that the child felt safe and knew she wouldn’t be judged when being herself in front of her fellow Circle V campers. It was a true testament to how special Circle V was and how this experience could truly change a kid’s life and develop their skills.
Souncirie started off as a camper, then moved up the ranks as a camp counselor and is now an administrator at Circle V. We, as an organization, are so proud of this full-circle moment. For Souncirie, serving families throughout Los Angeles and being able to create her own little family from within is beyond any expectations she had. “Circle V has been another family for me, and I feel blessed to work with an organization that’s understanding and supportive in all my stages of life. I can’t wait for my children to experience camp and create their own long-lasting memories and friendships.” We close out the 2021 Circle V Ranch Camp season with this spirit and look forward to hosting the upcoming fantastic youth group for next year and many more years to come.