Camping for Life

Set against the beautiful backdrop of the Comeragh Mountains in Waterford, a Christian camp is offering help and support for boys who are struggling at home or school.  Comeragh Wilderness Camp (CWC) is based on an American model of therapeutic campingwith a proven track record of seeing long-term transformation in the lives of young people.

Located near Rathgormack, Co. Waterford, the camp offers a positive alternative to the traditional harsh environment of a boot camp.  Instead, the approach is child-ledand gentle, combining structure and routine with community living and a holistic lifestyle.

Regulated by the Child and Family Agency (TULSA), CWC takes boys aged 12 to 15 years who are experiencing conflict and dysfunction at home, refusing to attend school, or have serious behavioural problems.  Most families find the centre by word of mouth or on the website, and participation is by private referral.  

Parents are asked to make a contribution to the cost.  The camp, a registered Irish charity, is also funded by donations, and finance is not the deciding factor as to whether a young person can attend.  

Wesley Sensenig, who runs the programme, explained, CWC is a forest village where young people live as a group with two leaders, called ‘chiefs’.  They work to build their own tents, chop firewood, plan and cook their own meals, and develop their own programme of activities. The aim is not ‘roughing it’ but rather learning how to live and work with others.

We are not preparing them for Junior or Leaving Certificates, but we are preparing them for life.

We seek to address the challenges and dysfunctions that have caused the ladsproblems,Wesley said.  We build resilience so they can cope better when they return home.  In some boys, we see a dramatic change.

As a Christian camp, CWC is upfront about its ethos. Young people are required to attend a short, non-denominational service each Sunday. However, there is no pressure for them to participate verbally or to make any religious commitment.

We want to share our faith, but it is more about how we live and the way we love the young person,Wesley said.  Inevitably, they ask us about why we do what we do, but this is not about proselytising.” 

CWC operates a strict child protection policy, and all staff members are Garda vetted.  The camp is inspected regularly to ensure the highest possible standards of care and education for the boys.

Although we are in the woods, we are not in the wild, and the living is not harsh.  The lads can be comfortable and warm without living in luxury,Wesley said. 

Often, a boys emotional problems have caused issues with mainstream education.  The academic value of the programme has been assessed and approved by the National Education Welfare Board.

Although not attending school, the young people are constantly learning through all the activities.  Studying nature is a vital part of the camp as the boys discover animal tracks, find edible mushrooms, and much more.  Canoeing, hiking, and backpacking trips are also organised by the young people as part of their programme.  

We are not preparing them for Junior or Leaving Certificates, but we are preparing them for life,Wesley added.

Find out more about CWC at
www.wilderness.ie.