It wasn’t easy. Taking 40 newcomers and volunteers for 2 nights of camping in the Canadian wilderness. Certainly, it had its challenges; Twenty tents, 40 mattresses, five stoves, propane tanks, groceries, snacks—how would we get everything to the campground? How do you prepare 40 people who have never been camping with all the skills they would need to get started?
We did it through partnerships. Parks Canada helped us put on a “Learn to Camp” workshop and introduced us to their amazing “Learn to Camp” mobile app. On top of it, they lent us tents and mattresses. Discount Car and Truck Rentals loaned us a van to help us get everything out to the site and back. Parkbus Canada was a great supporter securing free bus for more than 40 people. MEC and Greenbelt each made significant financial contributions. Erica Woods, Greenbelt Communications Manager, who joined our camping project, was instrumental in helping to bring the partnership between Greenbelt and CultureLink.
The first night was magical. Thanks to the training our participants received from Parks Canada, they were able to set up their tents within half an hour. Around 6PM, we lit the campfire over a handmade grill mesh our staff brought from home. Everyone started to skewer their sausages or hot dogs to braise them over the fire. Sweet potatoes and even bannock were cooked. Two of our mentors Ray and Mike finished the evening with beautiful guitar and harmonica music.
The following morning we saw 12-year-old Sami, cutting cheese and breaking eggs. Soon, we realized he was making scrambled eggs for 37 people. Sure enough in 15 minutes, with bread toasted on aluminum foil on the fire, breakfast was served; thanks to Sami’s tireless commitment for it definitely left a lasting impression on us. Unfortunately, we had to stop him before he began the next day because cleaning the pot was more difficult for us than making breakfast. We settled for boiled eggs.
After all the months of planning and hard work getting everything prepared and taking care of everyone over the weekend, it had finally come together. The newcomers said they loved it and we could not believe how fast time had passed.
Thank you to All who took part in this challenging preparation for the project that had absolutely kept us intimidated for awhile. We did it ! and we are striving to make this program even better next year and years after. Until next year, we will be filled with memories that will keep us smile, think and reflect.