Join the over 280,000 Canadians who took the Citizenship Challenge by registering your group. Your campers can learn about Canada with free bilingual learning tools and then take the mock citizenship quiz for a chance to win great prizes like a trip to Ottawa, books and mittens!
See citizenshipchallenge.ca/teacher/register for full details and to register your group.
Thirty-five years ago, when Larry Jorgenson visited Bella Bella, British Columbia, he discovered a community in crisis experiencing an average of one suicide a month. At the time, he was working in Alberta reorganizing provincial mental health programs. He had done similar work in Ontario. At the urging of the school principal, Larry moved to the isolated community accessible only by boat or plane to work with the Heiltsuk youth.
Larry, with the support and encouragement of Chiefs and elders, established the Qqs (pronounced Kucks, the Heiltsuk word for eyes) Projects Society with the objective of opening the eyes of the young people to their responsibilities as stewards of the Heiltsuk environment and culture. One program, the Koeye culture camp, teaches the Heiltsuk culture and language through singing and dancing and the traditional ways of resource management. Campers sing the songs about the grizzly bear but can also produce the data to measure the conditions of its habitat.
Heiltsuk Chief Councillor Marilyn Slett credits the Qqs programs with strengthening a generation of youth by helping them to retain their cultural identity. Larry’s reward for thirty-five years of community work is seeing the passion for the outdoors in the eyes of the children. “To be with a child watching a Sandhill crane dance while we hide behind a rock – seeing the look in their eyes- it’s beyond description.”
In a recent article in the Globe and Mail, Larry says, “It is not an accident that today’s cultural leaders are people who grew up in Qqs. Everything we do is culturally based. Our pillars are youth, culture and the environment. What we have tried to do is integrate western and traditional science. It has been a slow turnaround but by instilling kids with the strength and resilience of their culture, the Heiltsuk community has experienced a cultural and economic revival.” Larry cannot recall the last youth suicide in their town of 1400. He credits the efforts of many individuals with this result.
At the request of Ottawa Parenting Times, Catherine Ross, Communications officer for CCA, wrote this article to describe for parents the qualities of a camp counselor. Share this with your staff to motivate them to be the best they can be!
Across the country, thousands of eager, former campers are counting the days until summer camp begins. Some new campers may be more anxious than excited as day one draws near. Once camp begins, the one person who will influence the experience of each camper the most is the camp counselor.
The director is essential; the maintenance staff is useful; the nurse is important (should you need her) and nobody would stick around for long without the cook. But the camp counselor is the one with the closest, most consistent contact with the campers. As one renowned camp director, Elizabeth Raymer, described it, “This group of leaders determines the success or failure of the entire enterprise…The most beautiful site with elegant buildings and a superabundance of up-to-date equipment is useless in the hands of an inept staff.” Her expectations were clear: if you aspire to be a camp counselor, you have to be good. Your campers deserve your very best.
Camp directors diligently read resumes, identify candidates worthy of an interview then check references. With care and thoroughness, they select a group of young people whom they believe to be worthy of emulation by impressionable young campers. Once on site, they continue to train, supervise and evaluate. One camp staff alumna who assisted the director with interviewing prospective camp counselors for the 2015 season marveled at the qualifications, personalities, experiences and volunteer service of the candidates. My own experience concurs with her conclusions – young people who choose to be camp counselors are anything but average.
The summer my eighteen-year-old son joined our staff as a canoe trip leader, I had a rude awakening. For years, without a second thought, I had sent other people’s young adults into the wilderness to care for our campers. Sending my own son forced me to think more carefully about the huge burden I was placing on these young leaders’ shoulders. I expected them to travel for days on the assigned route, feed, shelter and care for a group of campers relying on the bare necessities, their experience, judgment and skills. They accepted the challenge without hesitation. And they never disappointed me! Despite the rattlesnake sunning on the portage path, a group of drunken fishermen wanting to share their site or a young camper with abdominal pain who required evacuation in the night, they always made the right decision and brought everyone home safe and sound. With one exception , they always arrived on time. Once when the lake was too rough to cross, they patiently remained on shore until the wind died down thus forcing them to arrive home late – but with good reason. Again, they made the right decision.
That summer I started a new tradition. At the end of the season, I wrote to my camp staff parents to share with them my renewed admiration of their offspring based on their achievements that summer.
The campers get the last word. As a Board Member for the Kids in Camp Charity, I recently received a summary of comments from the campers that the charity had financially assisted in 2014. Their remarks confirmed that counselors continue to do an awesome job. Payton tells us, “I learned how to do tricks on a wake board…my counselors were amazing and so chill.” Veronica, a special needs camper reports, “If something is too hard or too much, I can tell my counselors and it doesn’t mean I’m lazy.” Emily confirms, “My counselors were really nice, sweet and kind and very funny.” Tal loved his counselors, “Cameron and Shimon are very cool and they helped us with problems if we got into fights. I am so lucky I came to this camp.”