Sunday 15 December 2013

Camp Everywhere...

I never experienced summer camp. The closest I got to a summer camp experience was what we called Cub Camp, a two day overnight camp when I was a Cub Scout many years ago. I got homesick and didn't think I was going to make it to the end, but I did. I also experienced some good, and some bad family holidays during the summers of my youth, but going to a real week long or longer summer camp never happened for me. I have heard lots of entertaining stories about summer camp memories from friends who did go; I'll focus on the good ones.

My colleague Everett (@mrtetz) and I were talking last week. We were going back and forth about what we'd do with a million dollars. He has this idea to build a summer camp for kids from at risk environments. Beyond the essentials of providing a safe, non judgmental and supportive environment at this camp, he would like to offer ways for kids to connect; with activities that help build their esteem, and with people who support them.

What a great idea, but how to do this connection thing? How would we get kids to learn about themselves, face their fears, try new things, push their boundaries and accept themselves on the way to making these important connections? How would we be empathetic to these kids as they face these challenges? No small order.

We have also talked a bit about the Passion Project. From the project...
Passionate people have a contagious zest that inspires and motivates. This is a simple truth of profound importance that The Passion Project embodies and communicates.  In December 2009, we launched The Passion Project as a student-led initiative based at the University of British Columbia seeking to make “passion” an integral part of everyone’s lives. In short, we set the stage for passionate people to share their passion with others. We continue to ask the question, “What makes you come alive and how can you utilize your gifts to make change?”
So then I thought, why couldn't we connect the idea of the Passion Project with Ev's idea of a summer camp to connect kids from at-risk environments? (I should add here that kids from at-risk environments are those kids who feel personally that they are at-risk... we don't define this, they do, so a "kid at risk" could be any child at any time for any reason.) The short answer is I think we can. The long answer involves time (the deep fundamental) and planning (a burdensome but necessary element) and a lot of creativity. We have time, we know how to plan and we're pretty creative, so here's how it could go.

It would be awesome if we owned this sort of property for the camp, but not many people do. Finding a place like this to open a camp would definitely drain most if not all of that million dollars. So where to build the camp? We may have to wait a long time to raise the money to open a full service camp facility, but is that even necessary? Can't we get kids to learn about themselves, face their fears, try new things, push their boundaries and accept themselves just about anywhere? This anywhere will be the Camp Everywhere Project.

Getting kids connected to alternate mirror activities that reflect something positive back at them they may not have realized would be our goal. Along the way they would also get connected to good people who would be facilitating these opportunities. This is where the passion project piece meets Camp Everywhere. We don't need a pristine wilderness setting and cabins to evoke the kind of emotional investment and engagement that kids so often describe as parts of their summer camp experience. There are countless school gymnasiums, classrooms, community halls, back fields, parks, libraries and other places within every community where Camp Everywhere would hold court. For example, Ev is a lifelong skateboarder who is passionate about connecting kids with the sport. Here's an audio clip of a CBC interview about how he did this. Lucky for us we have a 27 000 square foot skatepark at our school, and here's how we use it...

This is Camp Everywhere! There are loads of passionate adults in every community who could share their passion with kids of all ages... we just have to find a way to inspire them to do just that. I would share my passion for writing, or cycling or lacrosse, someone else might share their passion for art or music, and another may share their passion for reading or gardening. There is no limit to what, and who we could expose kids to, all volunteer, at no charge, but with the potential to show tremendous rewards. Children are our gifts for the future; a future we share. Perhaps we need to spend more quality time packaging the well so our shared future yields good things for all of us.

Similar to Grow Boys, another project we are involved with, the simple mandate of Camp Everywhere would be for adults to make the effort to engage kids in their own happy, healthy growth and development by simply sharing with them the things they are passionate about and love to do. If you are an adult who thinks this is a good idea; one that could be replicated in any community, please comment and let us know what you think. We're ready to bust out some t-shirts and get this show on the road!