Camp Rainbow, now known as The YES, was brought over from Saskatchewan over 30 years ago by Cliff Monteith as a Co-operative Youth Leadership Camp. It was originally established to teach youth to be future directors of credit unions and co-operatives.
Under the direction of people like Bryan Robinson of Nanaimo, a long-time co-op volunteer and founding director of RYES, the program began to concentrate on personal development skills (often now referred to as “life skills”) as a basic prerequisite for leadership.
The camp became a “permanent fixture” when its management was assigned to CUPAC Services Ltd., a community-service based subsidiary of BC Central CU. CUPAC manager Ted Blair, along with Bryan Robinson and other volunteers (usually employees of Co-ops and Credit Unions), broke the program into four areas of concentration:
· Self Awareness
· Communication Skills
By the early 1980s it had evolved into two one-week basic programs hosting from 80 – 100 participants, all 14 – 16 year olds sponsored exclusively by co-ops and credit unions and became know as “Camp Rainbow”.
The name “Camp Rainbow” was derived from the Rainbow flag, symbol of the International Co-operative Alliance. The rainbow flag is still flown at all RYES functions.
The decision to change the name to “The YES” was for the purpose of re-freshing the camp’s image.
Due to participants’ requests to keep coming back, an advanced program was developed with 4 main topics (Crossroads, Pathways to Success, Turning Points and Building Bridges) presented on a four year rotation so that participants could continue attendance up to age 18.
Returning participants developed an immense loyalty to the program and its sponsors, and developed many very useful skills, and soon became a recruiting ground for volunteer camp staff. By the mid to late 80′s it became evident that the most effective presenters were often the returning participants and the concept of, “for youth, of youth, by youth” soon guided our program design and delivery methods.
Although the program topics remained consistent from camp to camp, the actual program was personalized to the talents and skills of the volunteer presenters. By the early 90′s, special skills in first aid and crisis counseling were added to the program staffing requirements.
In 1990, CUPAC Services Ltd. was dissolved by the Credit Union system. In an effort to keep The YES/Camp Rainbow program alive, 5 volunteers formed the RAINBOW YOUTH EXCELLENCE SOCIETY (RYES). At that time, all formal connections to the co-op and Credit Union systems were lost. A request to have BCCCU appoint someone to the RYES board was rejected by BCCCU, but the program and its intents remained unchanged. Individual co-ops and Credit Unions continued to sponsor individuals to the week-long programs.
In 1992 a resolution was passed at BC Central’s semi-annual meeting to contribute 2.5 cents per credit union member to RYES from dues funding. After two three-year trials, the funding arrangement was made permanent. BC Central is now known as Central1.
In 1993 efforts were made to expand the program (to make it self-sustaining) by doing workshops for specific clients such as School Districts, often sponsored by local CU’s. The goal was to finance a fulltime office and manager, as it became apparent to the directors that “part time” or “volunteer only” wasn’t going to make it without direct administrative support of the sponsor base.
We needed money to replace the work that had been done year-round by CUPAC. In 1998 an alliance was formed between RYES and the BC office of the Canadian Cooperative Association (CCA-BC). CCA-BC, whose members include co-ops and credit unions from around the province, identified youth services as a priority for their activities, and RYES contracted with CCA-BC for the administration of Camp Rainbow. CCA-BC has since incorporated provincially as an independent organization and thus goes by the name BC Co-operative Association (BCCA)
In the year 2000, Grad Camp was added as a third week long program available to participants who have completed at least one Advanced Camp. Recently, the program has expanded to include Roots, Foundations, Pathways and Bridges camps (see sign up for more details). The Youth Including Youth project has come into existance with a mandate to make camp more accessible and welcoming to youth with disabilities. Global Awareness has also been added to the four original Basic themes.
Over the past years it has been evident that the BCCA and RYES partnership has been fulfilling it’s goal, and helped expand co-operative youth programs and co-op awareness within BC.