The Challenge of Eco Challenge

  • Posted July 31, 2015 by

    Eco Captain Summery

    My time as captain of Earth Team for CNS Eco Challenge 2015 was incredible. Never have I been pushed to my limit like that. Being kidnapped at 6am, asked to write a song, a chant and design costumes was challenging enough. The fact that I was required to build a 5ft fire from scratch was a whole other story. Eco challenge began a week ahead for all captains, most morning involved waking up at 6 to practice fires, compose lyrics and talk strategy. While the two days were exhausting and involved a very swollen sprained ankle, they were without a doubt my highlight of the summer so far. To see every single camper rally together, cheering each other on – despite being on opposite teams – to ensure that all competitors felt supported and loved was, for me, the reason this summer camp is so special.


    Four burnt ropes, eight outstanding performances and 100+ lost voices. How does one even begin to describe Eco Challenge 2015?


    Although the games began on the 16th and 17th of July , for the eight captains it was a rude awakening almost a week before hand.


    6 AM, I wake to a noise in my cabin. I roll over, still half asleep to see the smiling face of Jewels O’Brien holding a pillow case. Groggily I try to ask what’s going on but she interrupts me with three words, ‘I’m kidnapping you’. Only at camp does this thought not terrify me, probably just another crazy evening program or wacky Wednesday I thought to myself. I had no idea what was actually in store for me. After being led through camp with a pillowcase on my head I was finally brought to a stop on the dining hall porch and asked to sit down. I could hear other voices but was still unclear as to what was going on.


    A few moments of intense silence, our blindfolds were whipped off to reveal a sheet of paper with the name of an element on the table and a fellow counselor sitting opposite us. In my case EARTH was written in front of me, and Barry McDaid was facing me. Things began to take shape. Looking around at the other pairings, the level of excitement exploded. The teams were clear; Amos Armoni and Izzy Garcia for Fire, Bea Durston and Gonzalo Chacon for Air, Jesse Litvin and Maria Hall for Water and finally Niamh Whelan and Barry McDaid for Earth. The challenge was explained to us and we were sent back to our cabins to pretend nothing had happened. How could we conceal what had just happened, our camp lives had been changed forever.


    Our task was simple; write a team song, create and choreograph a team chant, design costumes, a banner and learn how to build a fire from scratch. Not to mention keep it a secret from every camper and counselor for seven days, before finally leading a quarter of the camp through an ambitious series of relays, games and challenges.


    Barry and I woke up at 6 am most mornings to prep for the challenge. We researched a dozen fire techniques and listened to countless pop songs. We spent free times, off periods and flex times discussing tactics. We were going to be ready for ECO 2015, or so we thought, until we found out the games had to be pushed forward 2 days because of inclement weather. Tension levels reached an all time high and after a late night of finishing details to costumes and props we were all set for the next two days of madness.


    Thursday 16th of July we had another early start as we donned our earthen costumes, painted ourselves with green body paint, gathered all necessary props and took to The Line for the ECO Wake up. Singing, chanting and beating drums, the eight captains were reunited again to wake up campers and raise the energy levels to the height they would be kept at for the next 48 hours.


    The first contest began at 10am on Thursday morning and it was nonstop from there. Obstacle courses, GAGA and Kickball tournaments, Water relays and Natural Disaster had all four teams worn out by the end of the day. A good night’s rest meant the camp was ready to take on the final day of the challenge before the infamous Apache Relay at 3:15.

    As earth captain, heading into apache I couldn’t have been prouder of our team. They had rallied together, keeping spirits high all day whether winning or losing. The final stages of ECO are a blur to me. Lighting a fire at the end of the apache relay was one of the craziest things I have ever experienced. And even though ours was the last to burn through the rope, the spirit and love shown by all campers and staff cheering everyone on in the final moments made the blood, sweat and tears entirely worth it.

    Huge congratulations to Bea Durston and Gonzalo Chacon and all on Air Team on being crowned champions of ECO 2015.

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