Stories from Canada, as our wonderful gappers past and present share their gap year experiences.
Demi - Outdoor Activity Instructor
I’ve always loved travelling and being in the outdoors, so volunteering as an outdoor activities instructor in Canada seemed like a great idea.
Travelling to a new country, to a camp where you know no one before you arrive is a scary thought, but one that I looked forward to. Truthfully there was nothing to be worried about, the people that I work with are amazing and throughout our first week of training, we became close friends. Our current 12 staff members come from five different countries which is incredible, making it crazy to imagine where in the world the 180 staff in summer will be from.
I’ve been pretty lucky with my first season at Camp Chief Hector, because it’s been an unseasonably warm winter. This means that the coldest temperature that we’ve had during the day was around -25C, and that I now consider anything above -10C as warm!
After a week of training, I had my first group of 12 kids to instruct by myself. Going into the week, I was confident and hopeful that it would go smoothly. Turns out that I got a “difficult” group to work with, making my first day seem really hard. However, as the week progressed I realised that this was a great challenge and opportunity. I learnt more about counselling that week than I would have if I had an “easier” group.
A typical week during the winter season includes counselling a group of 8 to 12 kids for four days. Our days consist of; 8.30am breakfast, 12.30pm lunch and 5.30pm dinner with activities in between. These activities include low ropes, challenge course, drama, team building activities and larger group games. After dinner, we get about an hour and a half off, before we round up all the students for campfire. Now, if you’ve never sung in front of a large group of people before, this can be nerve racking. However, it’s also a lot of fun and so rewarding that it’s one of my favourite things to do at camp.
I am having so much fun so far and can’t believe that two months have already gone by leaving only five more to go. I am really happy that I chose to come to Canada, I’ve already learnt a great deal and have experienced so much that it is unbelievable. My favourite thing is the atmosphere created by working with a group of like-minded people from various backgrounds, as well as how rewarding instructing a young group of children is.
Ziah - Outdoor Activity Instructor
When I was in the last year of high school, I was fairly sure that I wanted to go to university after school, but I wasn’t fully sure what I wanted to do when I got there. It can be hard to choose a career path to take with so little experience outside of school. I wanted to take some time after finishing school to go out and do something different. So I decided to take a GAP year.
I looked into various things I could do after school and was interested by an organisation called Lattitude. Lattitude is a global volunteering organisation that runs placements all over the world in countries like Canada, England, Vietnam, Japan, Malawi, Fiji, etc. They have a really wide range of opportunities of pursue and they help you to choose the best one suited for you. Lattitude helped me tremendously with guidance in planning my trip, my work visa, flights and a number of other logistical obstacles that come up when you’re trying to go to another country to work.
I’m currently working in a Spring/Summer Camp on Vancouver Island on the West coast of Canada. I’ll be working here during the spring and summer seasons. During spring, I work as an outdoor instructor for school and community groups that come to camp for 1-5 days at a time. A typical spring day would consist of running activities such as rock-climbing, archery, canoeing, kayaking, hiking and other activities. Evenings may include mass games like capture the flag or “The Animal Game” (possibly the best variation of tag I’ve ever seen) or perhaps on the opening night or closing night, a campfire, where the whole group comes together to sing songs and tell stories around the campfire. Summer is slightly different because I’ll be working as a camp counsellor, where I will be assigned to a group for 5, 9 or 14 days and I’ll be with them just about 24/7. I’m getting very excited about that!
I’m living at the camp with an amazing staff team, consisting of other volunteers from Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Over the weekends, I will often go into Victoria (the main city on the island) and stay with various staff members, or go hiking in the area around camp or road tripping further north to lakes, mountains and beaches with them.
I was very apprehensive before I left about what my time would be like but I’m learning so much about so many things and I’m currently having one of the best times of my life. I would recommend taking a GAP year to anyone and everyone, whether you’ve figured out your career path or not because it’s an amazing experience.
Matt - Outdoor Activity Instructor
My Lattitude placement in Canada is at Kamp Kiwanis, which is located approximately 30km west of Calgary in Alberta. Kamp Kiwanis has three seasons; spring and fall that involves the same program, and summer which is different.
During spring and fall, school groups come for 3-4 days and participate in environmental education programs that enhance their learning at school. We also facilitate a program known as Connections, which is aimed at Grade 10s to 12s and is an environmental, multicultural and leadership program. My role during these programs is a Volunteer Outdoor Program Leader, which enables me to teach activities to students ranging from environmental activities to archery or capture the flag. I also make sure they are safe and having lots of fun! My favourite part of spring/fall is archery and campfire!
The summer program is a fun-filled and a magical place for children to grow and enjoy the outdoors with friendly staff and peers. The summer program has been run here since 1951, and every child that attends is 100% subsidised by the Kiwanis Club of Calgary and camp donors. Summer camp is offered for children aged 9-12. Kamp Kiwanis also runs leadership programs for high school students during summer, with some participants eventually being offered the chance to work here as a summer counsellor, or receive the training required to work at other camps. During summer my role is as a Volunteer Kamp Counsellor, which entitles me to look after the kids, have fun with them and run a range of activities from arts and crafts to pool sessions! We also have day hikes and overnight trips in the forest.
A typical day here differs depending on the season, but we usually wake up around 7.15am and start brekky at 8am. We then have morning activities until lunch (noon) and then afternoon activities until dinner (5pm). After dinner we have some more activities and enjoy a good campfire, either outside at our fire pit or inside one of the camp buildings.
I chose to take a gap year with Lattitude for two reasons. Firstly to take a break from schooling and figure out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. And I have found what I want to do, which is to pursue a career in the outdoors and work with children. Also to educate others about the adventurous environment that we live in. The second reason was to give back for a greater cause. Throughout my life I have volunteered in many different aspects, mainly through the aid of scouting. With this knowledge I knew that making even a small difference by volunteering would greatly help someone in need. The Kiwanis Club of Calgary sponsors around 350 kids to come to Kamp Kiwanis every summer and enjoy an experience they may not otherwise have for financial reasons. It was great during summer to engage and have fun with kids who wouldn’t normally get the chance to have this experience, and so I feel as though I have made a positive impact on their childhood through volunteering here.
I would definitely recommend for others to volunteer through Lattitude and spend 6-8 months in Canada. This year has done a lot for me so far. It has helped me open up more as a person, to not care what other people think of me (today I danced to Taylor Swift in a dress), to be fair to others, to treat everyone with equality and to help me develop as a young adult. Most of the things I have achieved here in Canada I hadn’t dreamt of whilst at home.
Lattitude has helped me to get the most fun out of my life, and that is being in the outdoors, whether I’m teaching kids or climbing mountains. Before this year I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but this placement has given me time and space to realise what matters the most to me. Sometimes you just have to choose something and dive straight into it, don’t hold back, just do it!
Lachlan - Outdoor Activity Instructor
This whole idea of coming to a different country started off as a dream! I’ve always loved to travel and wondered what else there is to do around the world. It took me a few weeks to find the best place to be that would allow me to develop my skills and also as a person.
This year I’ve experienced life as a Winnipegger at a Camp Douglas, Canada!
I’ve had to tough it through the coldest winter recorded since 1898 with -53 degrees celsius. That day deserved 6+ layers of clothing.
First group counselling was a major learning curve for me. 12 kids and one Counsellor… I thought it’d be easy for my first group… nope, it was a challenge, with many rewards. It was so much fun connecting with kids, they all have different opinions from us adults.
After a few months of counselling school groups and working with a wide range of kids and teachers, I developed a wide range of techniques how to deal with or prevent situations that could, and sometimes did, occur.
Summer camp in Canada is a time for fun and games! All around the clock. I went into the summer camps thinking that I’ll just be a big kid! Which, I was… my job is the best I thought every day. Who else gets to play games, swim, do high ropes or climb rocks all day, not many people. So developing skills while playing games, it was one of the best things I got to do.
The overall experience that I got from coming to Canada has overwhelmed me. Seeing the way things are done, seeing people develop over the course of coming to camp. Being able to understand why people do certain things in situations.
I’ve met many new people and made many different friends. Although we don’t always agree on everything, I would not change the time with them for anything.
Working at camp in Canada was hard work and needs dedication but it has been one of the most memorable experiences of my life.
Rory - Outdoor Activity Instructor
Rory Brenan – Outdoor Activities Instructor
“The camp in Canada where I am placed covers something like 1000 acres I think (it really is an enormous site), and is split into two ‘ends’ about 2km apart: Chief Hector end and Bowfort end. Sunship Earth (the program I work on) is at Bowfort end, while everyone else is up at Hector (with some programs actually running in between). I work a 4-day week from Tuesday to Friday with kids, while Monday is used for staff training and stuff like that (although this coming Monday we will be hiking to the top of a mountain which should be pretty cool!). The camp is right at the foot of a couple of mountains, with several others in clear sight, and despite a week of warm sunny weather there is still some snow on most of them. Spruce trees are everywhere!
Now, what about my first week as an actual camp counsellor in Canada? It was weird, difficult and nerve wrecking but lots of fun! The kids are a handful, most of the time they don’t listen (male counsellors are always given groups of boys), and they babble incessantly. But still, lots of fun all round and they come up with some pretty cool ideas, so that’s good fun. Basically the week consists of lots of games, some activity-based learning, a little quiet time (again, the boys struggle with even the concept of quiet), plus three ‘trails’ where we try to teach them about how earth works and the environment and a whole bunch of stuff like that, through a series of activities.
The school has a choice of whether the kids sleep in tipis or cabins, and so far the boys have always been put in cabins which means each night during the week we have 2-3 of the 7 male counsellors sleeping in ‘the longhouse’ with all the boys, while the rest of us get the night off in our tipi. Tipi living is pretty good fun, we have a fire every night although as the weather warms up it doesn’t seem quite so necessary.
Anyways that sort of sums up my first week. Lots of interesting stuff happened, some good some bad but all a learning experience – it’s amazing how quickly you can pick up counselling skills as well as getting to know the kids and especially your fellow counsellors – I already feel like I’ve been here ages – yet it came as a shock when one of the others pointed out we only have four weeks of spring camp left before my 2-week break; I need to start planning what I’m going to do in that break! The group I work with consists of about 14 counsellors, plus 3 program support staff – my bosses. Of my co-counsellors, there are 4 Britons and 3 other Aussies, with rest locals or at least Canadians. Everyone is pretty cool.
Moving on to the second week of kids now. My group this week was quite different in a lot of ways, heaps more energy than the first lot and I figured that would mean they’d be more of a handful, but they were also more enthusiastic and I think took to me a lot more. So all in all they weren’t too much trouble, or at least less than I was expecting – although my counselling skills have improved, they aren’t yet at the level where there’s any such thing as an easy group. All in all the work is definitely hard and tiring, but also lots of fun – you spend lots of time playing games with the kids and the long hours make it that much better when you can spend time with your mates so our group of counsellors also has a lot of fun together.
Last week was spent in Calgary which was pretty cool fun, didn’t do much of the touristy stuff, but went to a Canadian mall which was HUGE and lots of fun – everything is so cheap too! Not sure how that works… but I’ll definitely be doing some shopping while I can. Went out Friday and Saturday with a bunch of other camp staff and just chilled out at a couple of their houses, got two awesome brekkies and an even better brunch which was cool! Everyone is pretty awesome and friendly and generous.”
Katie - Outdoor Activity Instructor
Kadie McCreedy- Outdoor Activities Instructor, Canada
“It’s week one here in Calgary, Alberta Canada, at Kamp Kiwanis and I’m still loving every minute of it. On Friday Steph and I carried on painting the Rockwell House – which is our project for the kids. We are making it into a nature room, but making it look like an antique store – which is quite weird but that’s what our project tells us we have to do, so that’s what we did.
Saturday was our day off so we went to the river that is on camp. It’s about a half an hour long walk away but really scenic. The sad thing was we didn’t catch any fish but it was just nice to sit and chill. Once we got back to camp we just slept as we still had jetlag – trust me it’s not a nice feeling.
Sunday we went into town for the first time. We went to a place that’s like Hunting and Fishing. It was cool because when we got there it had 30% off everything, so we picked the best day to go. After that we went to the supermarket to get our groceries for the week, and then headed home and chilled in front on the TV and watched a movie.
Monday was the same as Friday – we just carried on with our nature room painting and organising some nature activities to play when the kids arrive.
Wednesday must have been the best day yet because it snowed. Yes that’s right people, it snowed. Not just a little bit, a lot. It was amazing. We spent the first half of the morning in town buying some arts and crafts for our nature room, and spent the second half of the afternoon taking pictures and having snow ball fights. It was so much fun we must have been like 5 year olds playing in the snow, but it was really cool because out of the 3 Aussies that are on camp with me, 2 of them have never seen snow.
Today we finished making activities for the nature room which was great, but we’ve still got quite a bit to carry on. I’m loving doing this project. Tomorrow we are going travelling with Splash and Tree (Jennifer and Ryan our directors of the camp), so that’s it for this week.”
Maddy - Outdoor Activity Instructor
Piers & Stella - Outdoor Activity Instructor
Ollie & Kate - Outdoor Activity Instructor
Danielle - Outdoor Activity Instructor
Kim & Kerry - School Assistants
Kaitlyn & Hannah - School Assistants
YMCA Camp Elphinstone - Video Project
Sophie - Outdoor Activity Instructor
Jennifer - Outdoor Activity Instructor
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. 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.
Maya - Outdoor Activity Instructor
Taking a gap year was the first opportunity I had to exercise my newfound dream of chasing adventure, and so when Canada called from across the ocean, I answered.
As a counsellor, I became something of a parent to the hundreds of children who passed under my care while at camp. I lead them in a multitude of activities that I barely knew how to perform myself (‘act like you’ve been there before’ was the motto that got me through), from sailing, kayaking and canoeing to high ropes, arts and crafts and campfire. Everyday I learned new things and everyday my confidence as a leader grew. It was a cool night in spring when I first realised the potential I possessed to bring joy and a shared sense of friendship to my campers. The school I was counselling at the time consisted of around fifty students, and I remember clearly the evening we spent in the dining hall, safe from the ravages of the west coast rain. Somehow I was lured over to the old piano by a couple of my core campers, and before I knew it, I was tapping out the notes to Adele’s ‘Someone Like You’. I encouraged the girls around me to sing along, easing their fear by joining in. As I played, children from other friend groups drifted over, and it wasn’t long before the entire school had me and the piano surrounded, as they sang along to their hearts content. It was a magical moment, a muted memory that I will cherish always. When I think back to that night, I reminisce over the way the children forgot, for those few precious minutes, the social constraints keeping them in their separate cliques. For that instant, conformity was ignored, and harmony reigned.
My time at Camp Elphinstone was an experience like no other, and to this day it remains the best year of my life. Not only did I learn how to interact with children and work as a leader within a team, but I also learnt an exceptional amount about myself. Yes, the child in my soul is still alive and kicking, and yes, she gets tired and grumpy sometimes. She can be a sore loser and irritatingly stubborn, and she can withdraw from civilisation just to cry in the most blissful of places (campfire), for no reason at all; but she is also kind and loyal and sees the beauty in the trivial things that most people overlook. My year abroad taught me to embrace my unique spirit in a way that high school never could.
For that, I thank you. M.
Declan - Outdoor Activity Instructor
Declan at Camp Jubilee – Summer Camp (is like no other camp!)
What was I to have expected of Summer Camp? I had never been to a summer camp as a camper. What made it so different to the regular Spring camp groups I had been working with for the last four months? What made Summer Camp so special anyway?
The only things I can remember expecting in particular were the things that my seasoned colleagues had told me about Summer Camp.
Instead of a series of three-day school groups from specific year groups; of which Jubilee could administer up to three school groups at once, up to 130 kids from ages 7 right through to 17 descend on the camp for seven days apiece. The kids are divided into their different age brackets (7-9, 10-12, 13-16, 16-18 aka Counsellor in Training) and genders into cabins of up to ten kids.
For us, the camp Counsellors, we are put with a specific age group to work with and then a cabin group (i.e. the group of up to 10 kids). We then do everything about camp with them.
SO JUST what is everything about camp?
Let me give you the breakdown. To make it easier to explain everything that we do as a counsellor, we have a motto as part of our staff training:
Be with kids, talk with kids, play with kids.
BE: Not just your physical presence. They say the modern counsellor is a mix-mash of a parent, an outdoor activities instructor and a child: bringing together the skills, maturity and youthful expression that one needs to be the heart and soul of such an active and enervating summer camp such as Jubilee.
To be with the kids is to be with them in a cabin, lay down the cabin rules and ensure hygiene is being maintained, that the cabin is kept in a cleanly state, that the kids are having fun and not having a go at each other and that the kids are actually going to sleep. Essentially, it’s being present as a parent away from home; being present but also with a presence.
Then there’s meal times. Yes, you have to be a parent then too.
TALK: Communicating with the kids at their level is another important element of the job. It’s all well and good to be there for them – but you also have to engage them in a way that they will understand and respond well to (and won’t go on with a litany of questions about what you were trying to get across). Also having the patience to answer innumerable questions (most of which are the same, coming from different kids) as simple as what the time is, where an activity is, what they are doing now and if the stick they found is big enough to cook a marshmallow.
PLAY: Here’s the fun part. To play with kids is to have fun with the kids and engage in the activities so that the kids will enjoy their time and (hopefully) never forget their experience being with you as a counsellor for the seven days that they did. Even something as simple but rewarding as putting your dessert on the line for the first bullseye at archery can create an everlasting memory, or even an amazing performance of ‘The Moose Song’ at campfire on opening night.
In a nutshell, that’s our roles as camp counsellors.
So how did my first two sessions go?
I spent my first session with a group of 12-13 year old boys who were on a mentorship program with the local Rotary organisation. These boys were superb! I considered myself to be very lucky to have such an active yet disciplined group. These boys had so much that on the last night, and I kid you not, there were more than a few tears shed.
I thought that after having the pleasure of being with such a well behaved bunch of kids that the next session would surely be a reversal of fortune.
But such was not the case.
In my next session I worked with both 7-9 year old boys and girls, and while they did not have the same level of discipline as the mentorship boys did, they gave me more attention than I previously thought girls and boys of their age could hold to me – so long as there was an activity happening and fun was to be had.
And after two sessions, I had only had the humiliation of a docking twice (that’s a good thing!).
With two successful sessions which were most enjoyable for both my kids and myself under my belt, I feel like this summer camp might just fly right by. Two down, six to go. Now halfway through session three with another great group of kids, I feel like I have one of the best jobs in the world.
So the rest of summer camp…bring it on!!
Sophie - Outdoor Activity Instructor
A quick word from Sophie in Canada
Wow I am having the time of my life over here! I have met some amazing people and lifelong friends.
I counselled my first group of kids a while ago. I was looking after 9 girls (11 years old) and I was with them 24/7. And even though it was very full on it was so rewarding.
The activities that we do are high rope, climbing, biking, and field games. We have an awesome swimming pool and the camp has just build a new challenge course which we got to use. It has been awesome to see how the kids have developed their team work and leadership skills since being at camp.
Kate - Outdoor Activity Instructor
I hope you are all fit and well. I can’t believe that I have been calling camp home for well over 2 months already. Time is flying! We are now a staff team of 15, our family has grown! Everyone is getting on really well and having so much fun! Spring is definitely here; the past (busy!) several weeks have been up to 30 degrees and clear blue skies and the leaves have just come out! All the green is so alien! We are starting to see the northern lights on the odd occasion, which are supposed to be spectacular in summer. At the moment they are just faint white smudges, but they are there! Also we are starting to get lots of groups on site, we are currently having up to 5 different groups here at once! Camp wide games are a lot of fun, where everyone at camp joins in. Stones (a bit like capture the flags, but better!) is really intense and competitive, particularly among the staff, and we all get dressed up in crazy outfits!
2 weeks ago, Ridge and I decided to do a day trip to Jasper, as you do. We left at 8 and got back just after midnight, a good 600 km round car trip. Exploring the village itself was awesome, and the i-site (no-one knows what those are though) was really helpful. We decided to go for a hike along the river valley, and was told to carry bear spear as the bears are out at the moment. However, Ridge is also rather adventurous and we ended up eating our packed dinner on the top of Mt Morro, 1678m. It took us 3 hours to hike/rock climb (which was a little sketchy without ropes and harnesses, but I won’t go into details!). It was certainly a proper mountain! Everyone who was working was very jealous, but we made up for it by having a staff trip, including alumni to Jasper for the May 24 long weekend. So in other words, it was one big party!
Bones, Ridge and I went on a 30 km hike on the Saturday Night Lake Loop, camping overnight at Minnow Lake. Unfortunately, Bones and i forgot our utensils (rather, we were just saving on weight!) so we ate our pad thai dinner we cooked on the camp stove with twig chopsticks! Delicious! The freshly pumped water from the lake was so clean and yummy too! As we were hiking the last 100 metres back to the car, we saw a mamma grizzly and her cub! They must have been only 20 metres away, a little close for comfort! But we are still here to tell the tale of such an incredible experience, which is good news for us!
All the staff camped overnight in a beautiful meadow Sunday night though no-one got much sleep! Then on Monday, Ridge and I went on another hike. We were intending to do the Opal Hills loop, however, we got a little sidetracked and went straight up the mountain. It was extremely steep (I can certainly feel those calf muscles today!) and we made it up past the tree line, where we were hiking through waist-deep snow in some parts. We eventually ate lunch at 5 pm on top of the mountain with a spectacular panorama, which was well-earned!
I have finally hosted a group, (overlooking their entire stay, food, accommodation activities, etc.). It was certainly a bit a chaotic, (attempting to get nearly 50 people up a wooden pole in an hour and a half and trying to build a fire for their sausage roast which really didn’t want to stay lit was rather interesting. They were a great bunch of kids though, who were really competitive and loved the challenges we presented to them. They loved the high ropes course, which I lead by myself for the first time – I am now certified in our high rope course, after 3 days of training, so I can now facilitate high ropes from the high tower! Learning how to rescue and belay people down to the ground was a lot of fun and I feel so professional now! Also I am now a Paddle Alberta waterfront instructor, so I can take kids out on the water in canoes, kayaks and the voyageur canoe (although I haven’t quite got the steering sorted yet… ) Practicing rescues in water that had melted only 2 days earlier was a little chilly though. I lead my first group of kids canoeing last week, after being in a canoe for the first time less than a week earlier, and successfully fell in. Whoops. Thankfully, I bailed before I tipped the canoe, otherwise, I really would have been in trouble! It would be a little embarrassing teaching kids how to rescue the instructor, but at least the water had warmed up a little! The next two days, I am hosting another group. I am hoping that the strong wind we have at the moment will keep up so kayaking is cancelled – I want a little more practice on the water before trying to lead another session!
Anyway, love to you all,
Tamsen - Outdoor Activity Instructor
My first group, after only one week of training, was a group of 7 five and six year old boys for Spring Break camp. That was one of the craziest groups of children ever, and after that, all other groups were easy!!! 🙂 I learnt so many campfire songs, camp games, meal time songs, and camp skits that they are still going round and round in my head –even six weeks after camp has finished! During summer at Camp Deka, I got to take groups of children on outtrips. These camping trips would be between one and three nights, canoeing between each campsite. Camping out in Canadian summer thunderstorms is certainly an experience!! For the last two weeks of summer, I go to be involved with Eureka camp –a camp for children with invisible disabilities. That was just another great experience, in which I got to meet heaps of amazing people.
We got one week off during spring to travel as well as most weekends, and every weekend off in summer. So there was plenty of time to travel, and I got to see quite a lot of Canada in this time.
Taking a GAP year was the best thing for me to do after finishing school, and I’m so glad that I made the decision to do this through an organised GAP year programme like Lattitude. So if you are thinking about whether or not to take a GAP year, my advice would be Do It!! For me, working at camp for six months in another country was the best experience ever, and I have no regrets about my decision to do so.
Maya - Outdoor Activity Instructor
It has now been almost two months since I left Camp Elphinstone in Canada and I am definitely sad to say goodbye. The camp itself was amazing, and the people in it only made it better. I really grew as a person during my time overseas, and I learnt so much. Not only how to sail and shoot arrows, but also how to interact with kids on an equal level while still remaining their leader.
The great thing about working with kids 24/7 is that they really bring out the inner child in you, and I would often find myself being just as mischievous and playful as the campers I was counselling. There is more to being a counsellor than just following a set timetable and telling the campers what/what not to do; it is all the things you do outside of the ordinary that really gets the kids having a true camp experience.
An event that really brought out the childish behaviour in me was one night, when, dressed all in black and with a glow stick in hand, I shut out all the lights in our cabin. Once an eerie silence fell after the initial shock, I informed my campers that we would be breaking the rules that night; in the form of a kitchen raid. In a rush of excitement, my girls donned their darkest clothing and once curfew patrol had come and gone, we snuck out, racing through the cabin rings and across the grassy banks to the kitchen. If only I’d had my camera to capture how, as one, we dropped to the ground, hiding in the shadows from the head chef. We were in and out of there in seconds, dashing back through the darkness as the chef yelled “Who’s been in my kitchen?!” at our retreating forms. Back in the cabin, filled with adrenalin, we feasted on our prize; ice-cream sandwiches.
Another time, with a school group of about 30, we sat in the dining hall after an evening’s activities, having our snack before bed. A small group of campers were trying to figure out some chords to play a song on the piano. I told them I knew how, and they insisted I play it for them. So I did. I began to sing along, and the small group around me joined in. The piano then became something of a magnet as more and more campers joined us, their teachers watching from the background. And so there I was, in the midst of a chorus of about 30 children, all singing “Someone Like You” by Adele at the top of their lungs. It was exhilarating to look around and see so many kids singing as equals, no one thinking they were too cool or better than anyone else. Once our spontaneous performance ended, my friend turned to me and said “Maya, you’re like the pied-piper!” I remember laughing, watching as the kids dispersed back into their different clusters, and knowing that for that one moment we had all come together with the innocence and freedom of childhood.
Volunteering at Camp Elphinstone was an absolutely incredible experience and I have Lattitude to thank for it because without them all of this never would have happened. I hope all those going to Elphi or on an alternative gap year in the future love it just as much as I did, and remember, the greatest counsellors are the ones who still know what it is to be a camper.
Camp Elphinstone, BC, Canada
Krista - Outdoor Activity Instructor
Hey my names Krista and I have been in Vancouver, Canada for 5 months now. All I can say is that it has been a amazing experience so far and I am so grateful to have had this opportunity thanks to Lattitude NZ.
The Camp I am working at is called Camp Jubilee and it is situated along the Indian Arm , we have to take a 20minute boat ride to get to camp as it is not road accessable.
When we first arrived at camp is was so cold , we were not use to it as we had came from a New Zealand summer , but we all slowly got use to it . The first tasks we had to complete were spring camps, which involved taking school groups, this only meant we had to work 6 hours a day which was not bad at all compared to what they had in store for us in summer. Little did we know we would be having to work a lot more then just 6 hours and having to be with the kids 24/7. During spring we got the weekends off so most of the time we spent in downtown Vancouver, don’t get me wrong Downtown is nice but you do get over it, especially since I’m a small town/country girl. We got a week off in June to go and recharge before summer camp started. Sam and I went over to Vancouver Island and had a look around Victoria, we stayed with a family friend for two days then headed to Tofino. It was such a lovely part of the island, parts of it felt like we were up north in the north island , New Zealand. It was so nice just to relax. we spent two nights there and then headed back to the main land. It was then back to Camp Jubilee. We had a week of Staff training and we meet all the summer staff we were going to be working with . We had a lot of fun and really got ourselves mentally prepared for what summer had installed for us.
July 1st was the day summer camp started, it was exciting and scary at the same time. But of course the day ran smoothly. I had a good group of girls aged between 9-12 , through out the week it got a bit more challenging but I got through. So weeks past and we are now up to session 6 out of 7. Summer camp has been a very fantastic but challenging experience, I have enjoyed meeting so many nice, friendly people through out my stay. The families have been so welcoming and letting us into their homes.
We still have about 12 weeks left at camp but as summer camp is slowly coming to a end , fall camps are just around the corner. Our last day at camp is October 15th, we have about a month to travel after so Sam and I are planning on travelling to Seattle then to San Fransico and then on to Banff and Quebec. We fly back to New Zealand on the 28th of November.
I just want to say thank you so much to Lattitude NZ, especially to Lorna who spent many hours on the phone with me listening to all my questions. I have had such a nice time in Canada and I now know what I want to do when I get back to NZ. I also want to say a big thank you to Camp Jubilee, Dave Duckworth and James McLeod, camp wouldn’t have been as fun without you two. I appreciate the opportunity that you gave me. I have been told that home doesn’t change but you do and I know I have definitely changed since being home. I have realised that you have to mature a lot as you are making your decisions by yourself and not having your parents there to help out with them. I have also realised I have became more relaxed and chilled out. I look forward to returning home and showing everyone how I have changed.
Thanks for taking the time to read my blog.
Lauren - Outdoor Activity Instructor
So I’ve been here in Canada for just under two and a half months now, and I’m absolutely loving it at camp!! I work at a Camp which is an hours drive away from Alberta’s capital, Edmonton. We are on the edge of Lac Ste Anne which means we can go swimming, kayaking and canoeing whenever we want. We have a lot of activities here that we can do year round in our Outdoor School programs, these are usually school groups or boy scouts or girl guides, and we have all been trained on how to lead archery, rock climbing, vertical playground, zipline, team all aboard, high ropes, low ropes, forest exploration, shelter building, fire building, group challenge, kayaking, tandem canoeing and voyageur canoeing sessions! It’s a lot of fun interacting with your groups, especially if they are staying at camp for a couple of days, as you can make closer bonds with them, and seeing them get much more confident and laugh and contribute to their team.
Volunteering here is so much fun and I’m planning to stay on here longer than I intended to, until the end of fall (or autumn in kiwi language!) for a couple of reasons. One – I love my job. Two – I have met some amazing people and want to spend a bit more time with them before I disappear back home again. Three – being in a different country is an awesome experience! Things are rather different here, from the way they speak to the words they use for normal things.. for example, tertiary education is called “school” instead of uni or polytech, and beanies are known as “toques”. And your heart stops beating at a hundred miles an hour driving down the wrong side of the road at 120km/h after about 3 weeks, and you learn to look to the left before crossing the road! I’ve also picked up a slight Canadian twist to my New Zealand accent; spring staff have been here for a month and a half and have noticed a big change in my accent! Very exciting!
As for travelling around and seeing Canada, come summer time I will only have Saturday afternoons and Sundays off for 8 weeks, and I’m looking forward to the rush of summer camp seeing as we don’t have it at home at all, but we have been getting away from camp on our days off and going either to Edmonton to socialise with normal humans (who have normal human names instead of Trinity (me) or Buck or Puffin or Wonka or Magpie etc etc!!) and indulge in a little retail therapy at the second biggest mall in the world, or driving to Jasper in the Rockies 3 hours away for either skiing, snowboarding, rock climbing or camping weekends. I have loved seeing the change in seasons here, it is so much more dramatic than at home! The forests in March and April were white with snow and brown with dead trees but literslly overnight the leaves sprouted and everything is now so green!!! Our lake completely melted on the 5th of May too, so we are canoeing on it instead of cross country skiing across to the island! I’m absolutely loving it here in Canada and having a wonderful time. I encourage anyone who is humming and hahing about latitude to just go for it, the rewards are well worth the plunge into independence in a foreign country!!
Till next time, Trinity (aka Lauren)
Kelsi Leigh - Outdoor Activity Instructor
I live, work and play in the Bow Valley Provincial Park which means I get to enjoy waking up to the beautiful Rocky Mountains daily. I also live with some pretty big furry critters like Bears, Cougars and Moose. All which have been sighted on site in the past couple of weeks. Unfortunately I have been unlucky in any of these sightings, but I have faith that I will get to see at least a bear and moose before I leave Canada.
For the first 13 weeks of life at YMCA Camp Chief Hector I lived in an 8 bedroom house which I shared with some other Lattitude Volunteers coming from countries such as Australia and Northern Ireland. This is just one of the life skills I’ve learnt while living in Canada. For the past 6 weeks I’ve been living in a tipi which has been an experience in itself. It’s an amazing feeling to be sleeping without walls and being able to hear nature all around you. The daily alarm is a squirrel at 6am running around the floor and making extremely loud squirrel squeals.
During winter and spring my job consists of being an Outdoor Eco-School Councillor. Every week school kids arrive to camp looking forward to being in the outdoors exploring and learning. No week is ever the same. The schedule doesn’t change but the groups do, with different kids and different personalities. I’ll admit that it isn’t always an easy job there are defiantly challenges within groups but working to find solutions is a rewarding feeling.
Winter and spring are similar in programming but there are a few different activities we do. Activities during both seasons include Challenge course, Team building and full day hike. In spring the lake on site has melted back into liquid and we do a canoeing block, we build tipis and we do animal tracking. I didn’t know what I was expecting to do when I came to Canada but being an outdoor classroom teacher wasn’t it. I wouldn’t change a thing though. I’ve learnt so much about the history of Canada and about nature and it feels good to be able to teach what I’ve learnt out here to the kids that come out to camp.
Something I’ve really enjoyed about living in a forest is not having a phone or internet access 24/7. It allows you to do many more things rather than sit and stare at a screen. There’s so much to see and explore while being in another country. There are mountains to climb and 999 acres of camp property to explore. However I have done some exciting things such as go snowboarding and cross country skiing during winter. If it wasn’t so expensive I would have gone snowboarding every weekend. I also got to experience the Calgary Zoo and the Calgary Tower.
Overall I’m having such an amazing time in Canada. I’ve met many different people and had many different experiences. Time is going too fast. Bring on summer and everything it has to offer.
Emily, Emma & Hazel - Outdoor Activity Instructor
After an eventful trip through customs requiring Emily to be drug and gunshot residue tested at every stop we made it onto Canadian soil. Where we were met by the lovely Pia, Stuart and the Lattitude team with a box of our newly beloved Tim Hortons donuts, we then ventured through the streets of Vancouver, where Emily immediately began regretting over packing although she did manage to con some poor guy into carrying her bags, while Hazel played tourist taking as many pictures as humanly possible.
We then arrived at our hostel where we collapsed into tired heaps on our beds before being summoned to head on out for a night of five pin bowling and pizza.
The next day we rose from our warm beds to head to the Vancouver library where we were orientated about our upcoming year. After an eventful morning many of us headed off to the airport to catch our flights to our final and most fabulous destination. But not before Canada airlines booted Emily off our flight because of a faulty door, which was when Lattitude came to our rescue. Several hours later we landed in Calgary full of excitement and feeling slightly relieved to be met by several staff members from our beloved Kamp Kiwanis. They took us on a very eventful outing to Walmart to get supplies, at which we were slightly overwhelmed by the sheer scale of the place. We then were taken to our camp, Kamp Kiwanis. Upon our arrival we were met with an extreme scavenger hunt around the icy, snowy unfamiliar Kamp in the dark. We then began to create our new Kamp personas whilst trying to demolish ice cream cake. We finally decided on our camp names, Emily is now referred to as Fern, Hazel as Tui and Emma as Tiki. Over the next week, we learnt many programs and a had great time getting to know our new colleagues whilst continuing on our mission to finish the ice cream cake.
It then came time to have kids at our Kamp and our energy levels sky rocketed. However the week was a lot of work and the Canadians predictions that we would all start drinking coffee soon came true when Hazel and Emily in a moment of complete exhaustion reached for a cup of the strong stuff, this aside we had an amazing first week and we were sad to see the kids go back to school. That weekend we had our first major experience of travelling on our own when we had a weekend in the ski and snowboard haven that is Banff. We learnt how to book hotels, use Canadian public transport and most importantly that Kiwis have a built in radar and can find a fellow country man anywhere, we’re pretty sure we meet all the Kiwis that live in Banff.
This past week has been Spring Break here in Canada, so we have had a maintenance week here at Kamp meaning Emma spent at least three days painting two precise replicas of the Earth to be used as table settings, whilst everybody else completed their’s in less than half a day.
It is a great relief to know that Lattitude is there to support us and help us out of any situations, shown by our experiences so far.
We are having an awesome time and we are also looking forward to the rest of the Lattitude gappers coming to join us soon.
Emma (Tiki) Neal , Emily (Fern) McDonald, Hazel (Tui) Buchanan.