'An amazing opportunity': First ever Canadian Deaf-Blind Camp coming to Winnipeg

Deafblind Canadians from across the country are gathering in Winnipeg this week for the first ever Canadian Deaf-Blind Camp.

Deafblind Canadians travelling from across Canada for inaugural event

Bonnie Heath, executive director of the Resource Centre for Manitobans who are Deaf-Blind and Trevor Barrett, client of the resource centre and member of the committee planning the first ever Canadian Deaf-Blind Camp. (Danelle Cloutier/CBC)

Deafblind Canadians from across the country are gathering in Winnipeg this week for the first ever Canadian Deaf-Blind Camp.

The week-long camp has been organized by the Resource Centre for Manitobans who are Deaf-Blind, an organization that has offered support for 22 years to a community that doesn't always see a lot of support outside Manitoba.

"Our goal really is to give these deafblind folks an opportunity to meet one another, to have a week where they feel safe and no stress and they can just participate," explained Bonnie Heath, executive director of the resource centre.

"The reward for us as staff is that we'll have a stronger deafblind community at the end, and people can just come hang out for a week and not feel the isolation and just enjoy themselves."

The camp is open to adults who were either born blind and became deaf, or vice versa, and roughly 30 campers are expected to start arriving in the city Sunday.

The camp, which is being held this month because June is DeafBlind Awareness Month, runs Monday through Saturday at Camp Manitou, and activities planned include rock climbing, zip-lining, horse riding, swimming, and fishing.

There will also be a deafblind comedian performing Thursday and educational workshops led by leaders in the deafblind community offering peer support and coping strategies for campers throughout the week.

"The dual disability makes it very difficult to function outside the home," said Heath.

'Life is hard enough as it is'

Trevor Barrett is a client of the resource centre and he's also on the camp committee.

The camp's activities will be accessible for all attendees because each will have an intervener and interpreter with them to make sure everyone can take part, said Barrett.

"We're putting up safety lines, we're marking the trails and we're marking everything with special tape so those with some visual acuity can basically make their way around," said Barrett, who is also taking part in the camp.

"Life is hard enough as it is, and everyday these people get out of bed and face these challenges so to come and be part of a group and be with people who understand… for me it's going to be a real relief."

Organizers hope to make the camp an annual event, and while they have a few sponsors this year, they're also raising money to help cover participants' costs for camping — about $60 a day.

"We really hope that the deafblind folks that come will make new friendships and when they go back to their different provinces they will have a network of people that they can connect with throughout the year until they come back next June," said Heath.

With files from Ismaila Alfa