Good morning! It’s my first day at camp - I’m excited. I’m scared. I’m wondering what the day will bring!
We’re beginning our day by gathering as a community for a meet and greet, helping everyone get to know each other. It makes me nervous, but everyone is greeting me with a smile and sometimes a hug. Maybe it isn’t so scary after all. In fact, I already learned a couple of new names, and there’s some really interesting people here.
At 9 o’clock, we eat breakfast together. The food is fresh, and there’s a big buffet to choose from. Today there’s fruit, cereal, pancakes, oatmeal, potatoes and eggs! I feel full already. At our table, I’m sitting with other teenagers, and a couple of staff members. Everyone is from different parts of the province and it’s so interesting to hear about the towns that people are growing up in. The conversation ranges from talking about our favourite TV shows to what we’re hoping to be when we grow up, and even answering questions about camp and what to expect. I feel included and I feel heard – people really want to know about my opinion and thoughts.
After breakfast, we’ve got some free time. I’m thinking about taking a shower to get my day going, but I’ve also been invited to make friendship bracelets and to play spikeball. I didn’t think it could be this easy to be pulled in by others.
At 10 o’clock each morning we meet for something called Thought of the Day. A staff member is sitting at the front of the room and telling a story about their life. I can’t help but relate to some parts of what they are saying, and it’s making me excited to know that I share an experience with them and maybe a lot of other people here too. After their story, something called session starts. Each day we cover a different topic including self-awareness, communication, co-operation, and leadership. The staff team is silly and fun - they have on incredible costumes and invite us to play games and do activities that come with bigger lessons. It feels awesome when I stick my hand up and answer a question with everyone supporting me.
We eat lunch together at 1 and then have two activity options: canoeing or ZAP (Zero Activity Programming). ZAP is an opportunity for everyone to escape the sun and play a card game, make a craft, play an instrument, hang out with friends, or play volleyball in the shade. Today, I signed up to go canoeing. After eating, I meet the others with our staff, and we head down to the lake. We do a quick safety lesson, and we’re off. The water on Lake Cowichan sparkles in the sunlight, and my neck feels warm - don’t worry, the staff made sure I wore sunscreen. It’s the kind of warmth that feels safe, like a hug. We’re on the lake, and we tell fun stories, sing canoe songs, and eventually head back to the base of camp.
Once we’re back, we get to go to our crews. You get to decide which crew you’re in and each one is responsible for a part of camp: campfire, talent show, the banquet, or acts of kindness throughout the week. It feels good to get creative in a way that benefits everyone else. I feel really bonded with everyone in my crew and it’s exciting to build up to our big project.
Crew time wraps up with a Community Meeting, where the whole community comes together to share any exciting news, possible concerns, and have a whole lot of fun together. Delegates from each Crew share their exciting updates, and it’s so cool to see everyone be listened to, and treated as an equal.
After the community meeting, we start our afternoon activities. Apparently, this week is going to be filled with things like swimming, field games, a hike, a rhythm workshop, and today is tie dye. We get to make our own shirts and wear them at the end of the week during a dance party!
Before dinner, we have some free time. I think I might read my book, but there are some fun card game circles going on as we listen to our favourite music. Dinner is at 6, and again, the great conversations come flooding back to our table as I get to know everyone and their stories.
After dinner, we do something called Twilight Zone, where we play a quick game together to get our energy back up. Today we played kickball, but I also heard there are things like dorm bonding activities, partner competitions, and karaoke. All of these are meant to get us hyped up for our big evening activities such as the talent show, or the campfire. Today is capture the flag! It’s awesome to see everyone get into it, whether they’re running around finding the flag, or dancing along the path in the woods. The music that the staff are playing is so fun and gets everyone in the spirit!
After the game, it’s time to relax a little. We get a snack during Mug Up, and get ready for something called Relaxations. A couple of staff encourage us to lie down, get comfortable, and reflect back on our long day. They start to play music, some I’ve heard before, and some that is new to me, and I take a deep exhale. It feels peaceful. Each night is a little bit different - some staff might read stories, share poetry, and sometimes campers can share too. Relaxations leads us into Reflections. In small staff-led groups, we gather to discuss important issues, share stories from our lives, and reflect on how we’re doing at camp and in our life. I haven’t done anything like this before, but I’ve gotten really close with my group. I think it’s one of my favourite parts of camp so far. After Reflections, it’s about 10:30. We give some goodnight hugs and get ready for bed.
Good night! Tomorrow’s my second day at camp - I’m more excited. I’m less scared. I’m excited for what the week will bring!
About the Author:
Shania Chand (she/her) is the Program Director of The Youth Excellence Society. She holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Communication, a Minor in Gender, Sexuality and Women's Studies and a Certificate in Social Justice from Simon Fraser University.