Power To Be introduces Inter-Cultural Association of Greater Victoria youth to camping

Sitting at camp with two participants, neither of whom speak much English yet, a simple statement made a profound impact. One of them turned to me and said, “These last two days, they have… ” he said, pausing to find the next words. “They have… erased Syria.”

Now, I’m sure that he — and many of the other teenage refugees on the trip — will never forget the hardships in their past, so I don’t think that “erased” was the exact descriptor he was looking for, but it told me enough. It told me that the experience we were giving these teens was extremely positive, and that it was helping them to find who they were outside of being refugees, or new Canadians. This camp gave them the chance to simply be a bunch of teenagers who were away from home and having fun in nature.

The opportunity came through a partnership with the Inter-Cultural Association of Greater Victoria (ICA), which offers services for immigrant and refugee newcomers. The camping trip with Power To Be was designed to introduce youth from Syria, Mexico, Lebanon, Philippines and China to the natural spaces available to them, while strengthening their connections to themselves and each other.
With that in mind, we spent three days and two nights tenting at Camp Barnard, and I got to witness a lot during that time.

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I got to spend time in nature, and I got to see how the teens reacted to the tall trees all around us, the smell of the earth, and the sounds of beavers building their dam in the lake beside our site. I saw the joy on their faces when they told me how beautiful Canada is.

I got to witness a group of 12 individuals become one cohesive group of friends. I was lucky enough to hear their laughter at their inside jokes, and to watch them teaching each other games and contests.

I saw how eager they were to help with whatever necessary. Meal prep, campsite set up, campsite take down; you name it, there were always 12 sets of hands eager to help out.

I experienced how gracious the participants were. I wasn’t involved in the menu planning, the food shop before camp, or even most meal preps, but everyone thanked me after every meal.

The trip was everything that camp should be for a teenager. We hiked and we solved puzzles. We had a pretty sweet campfire, complete with acoustic guitar sing-alongs and banana boats (a tasty twist on campfire desserts, these are bananas with marshmallows and chocolate, wrapped in foil and roasted on the fire). Together we grew as a team.

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The camp was thoughtfully planned to be beneficial to the participants, many of which had never camped before. Reflecting on the experience with the other program facilitators, however, I can safely say the experience had an impact on us as well. I learned so much from this group of teenagers, and they warmed my heart at every turn.

If I had to sum it up in three words; heart-warming, entertaining and indescribable.

 – Story shared by Em McFarland, Power To Be practicum student