Submitted by Zhiqi Jiang and Mina Guan, Summer Camps Facilitators
This summer, the ICA Youth and Family Services Team facilitated a series of camps for newcomer children and youth. In July, we ran Camp Connect, which included two week-long programs for children aged 6-13. In August, we partnered with the local outdoor organization Power to Be for a three-day overnight camp with our older youth. It is no easy feat moving to a new country with new people, new lifestyles, and new customs. Camp is a chance for young people to come together, leave their worries behind, and just have fun.
As summer students, we had the privilege of working closely with the team to facilitate and organize the programs. Various activities during Camp Connect emphasized our main themes. We expressed art through paper bead making, personal expression through photography and music, exploration through outdoor field-trips, and building community through a culture quilt and family groups. These ideas were further elevated with our wonderful partnerships such as Power to Be’s outdoor excursions, SPCA’s presentation on animal consent, SKAM Theatre’s plethora of inclusive games, and Science Venture’s stock of fascinating modern technologies.
However, the most enlightening outcome of this experience was the growth in confidence and community we witnessed amongst the children. Although, many participants were strangers entering Camp Connect, the youth quickly developed friendships with each other. Some participants were hesitant at first, but they eventually became more engaged, even reaching out to unfamiliar peers. Family days were the conclusions to our week-long camps. There, it was inspiring to witness the youth, surrounded by their newfound friends, sharing diverse food, and playing among each other. Family day became a testament to the meaningful connections nurtured over the week.
For many, Power to Be was an opportunity to experience typical West-Coast pastimes, such as water sports, camping, and exploring local wilderness. Even though these new experiences can seem challenging and intimidating, the youth were thrilled, fearless and open-minded. As facilitators, we appreciated their eagerness for adventure! They quickly learned how to set up a tent, prepare food meticulously, establish team spirit through canoeing, and conquer standing up on a paddle board for the first time! Although some of the youth knew each other from previous years of ICA activities, their ability to make space for new members, including us staff, into their group was very heartwarming. In no time at all, we were bonded by stories around the campfire and laughter on the lake.
There was such an inclusive, positive energy that permeated through these programs. It made us proud to see how the participants respected and helped one another and were willing to share their own cultures and personal experiences. As a newcomer entering Canada, it is easy to get tangled in a fast and often stressful environment, whether it is the language barrier or the unfamiliarity, and we become oblivious to the small pleasures that constantly surround us. Camp Connect and Power to Be gave people a safe space to access these forgotten senses through community and learning.