Sharing the camp experience with new Canadians
A few camps chose to host new Canadians from Syria this past summer, though Glen Bernard Camp was a leader in that regard. Certainly the camp has not just a history of making great summers, but providing an example of what camp can do, and what it should. Here, Kim Graydon writes about The GBC for Syria: A Summer Camp Experience program.
“Yes, I think they loved camp. I met a Syrian camper and she said she was having the time of her life and she loved it. I got to know this girl named Dalya. She was super nice and she said she loved this camp and if she could she would live here”.
-Saige, Glen Bernard Camp camper
GBC for Syria was a special salute to 95 years of shared camp experiences, camp values, and camp skills. Owner and Director of Glen Bernard, Jocelyn Palm, extended an invitation to 26 female Syrian newcomers to spend a week at GBC this past summer. The plan was for 24 newcomers, but as is common with girls, there were two more friends, and could they please join too?! Of course!
A summer of firsts
Campers breathe life into a camp and our Syrian campers left us filled with a sense of joy as well as of gratitude for getting to know them and hope for the positive impact camp made on them. We know that the Syrian campers met new friends, experienced many firsts: swimming, horseback riding, climbing in the high ropes, vegetarian lasagna, flying down the zipline, canoeing, dumping a sailboat, sleeping away from their families and finding a new camp family.
Jocelyn Palm, centre, teaching the J stroke
And what about the impact made on us? It was a significant and wide reaching one.
Our campers were their best selves. One of our camper surveys stated “every day we worked on including everyone. We made sure all of us were together.” The girls looked after each other. For our Syrian campers, that meant they knew where to go at all times, they had a friend to take them to the washroom in the middle of the night, someone to give them encouragement when it was time to jump into the lake!
A community of support
For many of our campers, it personalized the news headlines they had been reading for months. Some of the Syrian girls shared their personal experiences with their cabin mates and staff. There is nothing more impactful in terms of education than listening to someone who has experienced what you are learning about.
But it was more than that, too. One particular example that stands out is the enormity of empathy one Syrian camper exhibited in her opportunity to learn how to swim. She confided that she felt lucky to be able to try swimming and that she should leap at the chance but that she was having trouble with it as so many Syrians had drowned trying to escape to safety and she wished they too could have had this opportunity to learn to swim. If they had, maybe they would be alive today. In this moment, campers did what they do best. They hugged her and, even without words, she knew she was listened to and understood.
A culture of respect
Summer camp is an invaluable experience to give to children. It helps kids to learn respect for someone else’s opinion, being kind even when someone isn’t being nice, devise solutions for how to live and get along with each other, appreciate people’s differences and how to have just good plain old fun! The interpersonal skills campers acquire are invaluable tools for their future. Negotiating friendships, business deals, teamwork challenges? No problem. They have the experience and they learned it at summer camp.
About Glen Bernard Camp
Glen Bernard provides fun, adventure and opportunities to build self-confidence. A wide variety of activities challenge each age and skill level. Well-qualified and caring staff includes a resident physician. GBC has a significant commitment to environmental sustainability in all aspects of facilities and program. Our unique Living Lightly Lab with rooftop gardens, and a solar powered boat are examples of initiatives to educate campers in environmental stewardship. Located just north of Huntsville on 730 acres with a kilometer of safe shoreline. Various session options for ages 4-16. Request an info package and visit our website for details. Established 1922.
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