Today we got started with our first day of training. It was a bit of a long day, especially considering that the weather was quite gloomy and we spent most of the day sitting in a dimly lit auditorium. That being said, it was nice to finally start learning more about our roles and responsibilities as camp counsellors and details of the communities that we will be living and working in.
Our morning began with a welcome from an elder from a nearby community. We were then given an overview the camp program, which was interesting because I really do not know all that much about Frontier College or the origins of the Aboriginal Summer Reading Camp. While the program was started by former Lieutenant Governor James Bartleman in 2005, the current Lieutenant Governor, David Onley, has continued to support the program. However, as of this year, Frontier College has assumed stewardship of the program which means that they are responsible for funding of the project in its entirety. As a program that costs upward of one million dollars, that is no small undertaking. More information about supporting the program can be found here.
We also learned about the scope and growth of the program. This year, camp will be running in 26 different communities (unfortunately two communities had to cancel last-minute because of issues in the community). The total number of camps being run varies from year to year. It began with a small pilot project of five camps and has grown to as high as around 40 camps a few years ago. The four-person team dedicated to running this program out of Thunder Bay are incredibly dedicated and it was great to hear them talk about the growth of the program.
We also learned about some of the core values that are the foundation of all of the work that Frontier College does with the Aboriginal Summer Reading Camp program. Their main priority is establishing a partnership with each community that they work in. Camps operate in these communities because the community has invited Frontier College in to facilitate the program and in no way are these programs imposed on any community. This partnership is enhanced by the fact that Northern Counsellors from the various communities are actively recruited to work as part of the camp team in different communities.
After learning a lot about the program itself, the rest of the day consisted of a variety of different training sessions. These include a question and answer session with returning counsellors, a presentation by a woman from One Laptop Per Child Canada (an initiative that aims to enhance education for Aboriginal youth through the use of technology), and a discussion about the importance of literacy and fostering a love of reading and writing in children from an early age. Along with this last topic came a discussion about unique ways to incorporate elements of natural literacy into the camp program rather than making camp seem like school for the kids. I am looking forward to being creative and finding fun ways of incorporating elements of literacy development into the camp program!
After dinner, I decided to make a trip to pick up some other items that I realized might be useful since our last trip out yesterday afternoon. I thought that I had looked up a Shoppers Drug Mart close to campus, but I must have had my directions wrong because there was nothing there when I arrived. Instead, I ended up retracing my steps back to campus and then walking to one that we had gone to yesterday. The weather was not very cooperative with my adventure and I got rained on, but I suppose I should get used to dealing with the elements before the summer gets started.
We also found out today that we do not have a Northern Counsellor joining us from Fort Albany, so there will just be two of us running camp there this summer. It would be nice to have someone from the community to help us learn more about the community and connect us with different resources throughout the summer, but we will just have to do our best to meet people and ask questions when we arrive. It will definitely be an adventure!