Canada, Jennifer

Jennifer Volunteered at Camp Douglas in Canada

Canada. Oh Canada.

I’m not one to follow the crowd. I mean I was a good kid growing up. But I was always the first one to randomly start exploring new places, visiting new towns and was always going on epic car or camping trips just to experience new things. I’d discovered at an early age that I wanted to work outside and a job at McDonalds helped me realise I didn’t exactly hate working with children. So, when it came to the end of high school and all my friends where going off to university, I was working two jobs to save up money in order to come here, to Canada.

The months before I was due to leave for Canada went all to fast. Thanks to Lattitude, they’d hooked me up with a placement in a place called ‘Woodlands’ in Manitoba, a place I didn’t even know existed and couldn’t find easily on a map. I was a little scared. At 17 I was moving out of home to live somewhere I knew very little about for the next 8 months. But when I finally got there/here the people where so nice. At first I thought they were all crazy and I felt so, so homesick. Then I became one of these people: Dancing around camp randomly… Belting out camp songs at inappropriate times… Cooking snacks at midnight… Making random food creations… Going on random adventures to explore the surrounding community (we’re very isolated, there is very little community). These strange people quickly became family.

The main part of my job is working with kids. I discovered that although its very rewarding, at times it can also be very VERY challenging. At the end of my first week counselling I called up my mum and apologised for ever being a kid, and for asking so many questions. I realised that kids ask a lot of questions and need a lot of supervision to stop them getting into trouble. Over summer I learnt from my little mistakes and sort of remolded the way I counselled in order to make the kids time at camp much more fun. Which in turn made my life much easier, aka: the more activities you do with your kids, the more you tire them out, and the less likely they are to start hitting each other with sticks.

Here at camp Douglas (the epically awesome camp I’ve spent the past 5 months working and living at) you get a chance to do more then just counsel. You have the opportunity to work in a kitchen and cook for over 150 people. You learn how to belay on high ropes and rock-climb. Your speaking skills, tolerance level and fitness all instantly improve. I’ve learnt I’m defiantly not going to make it as a painter, but I could make it as a lumberjack, biking instructor or maintence workman. And finally, after a whole summer I’ve finally learnt how to unclog a toilet.

The most surprising aspect of my job wasn’t the variety of skills I was able to master in a very short amount of time, it was discovering my love for teaching kids new life skills. Like watching the smiles on their faces as they ride a bike for the first time. Or the joy and pure enthusiasm they show when your teaching them to swim.

Sadly I’m coming to the end of my placement. But… I’ve caught the travel bug. Yep. I’m not quite ready to return home any time soon. I realised that I love the people I’ve come to work with here just a little to much. So my plans… (and everyone here knows I don’t make plans) is to travel Canada over winter and somehow get my lifeguarding certificate so I can return to Camp Douglas in the summer of 2013.

My advice to anyone just finishing school, you don’t have to follow the crowd. Don’t go to university just because you think that’s what society wants you to do. Volunteer on a gap year. Get real life skills. Experience more of the world than just the town you live in. You won’t be disappointed.