Saskatchewan

Sask. camp for children coping with grief in need of male volunteers

A camp in Saskatchewan that helps kids deal with trauma and grief is at risk of turning away campers because it doesn't have enough male volunteers.

Camp seeing record numbers of boys signing up

Activities during the Caring Hearts camp include, campfires, rock-climbing and horseback riding. Campers also participate in therapeutic and guided activities that help them deal with emotional aspects of trauma or grief. (Submitted by Trish Dupuis)

Trish Dupuis says many of the kids who attend a Caring Hearts summer camp go through a wonderful transition.

"The kids come to us on Fridays not really knowing what to expect. A lot of them are very apprehensive about being there," says Dupuis.

But by the end of it, says the executive director of the Regina-based not-for-profit agency, there's a big improvement.

"Kids are smiling, they are laughing, they don't want to go home. They just really have the opportunity to work through and begin that journey of healing over the course of the weekend."

The twice-a-year camp is free and helps children between six and 16-years-old deal with trauma, grief and other mental health struggles.

The upcoming May 3-5 camp at Lumdsen currently has 54 kids signed up, about half who are boys.

Just being able to provide these kids with that support and the ability to work through some of the very overwhelming emotions that accompany the grieving process is really important.- Trish Dupuis

It's the highest amount of boys the camp has ever seen, according to Dupuis, but that leads to a problem.

Without more male volunteers, the boys could be turned away.

"We can't run camp without our volunteers," said Dupuis.

She said the camp aims to have a 2:1 ratio for campers to counsellors and they only have two male volunteers signed up to work with the 26 boys.

"This is the highest male camper registration that we've ever had, which we think is great, but with two male volunteers we definitely need to fill more roles."

Camp running for over 20 years

Dupuis said the camp began in 1997 and has provided a valuable service to kids and their families dealing with grief ever since.

"There is no right or wrong way to get through the grieving process and it can be incredibly overwhelming, and for kids it can be even more challenging," said Dupuis.

The camp's goal is to help kids deal with grief of losing a loved one while encouraging them to have fun. (Submitted by Trish Dupuis)

"Just being able to provide these kids with that support and the ability to work through some of the very overwhelming emotions that accompany the grieving process is really important," she said. "For them to understand that they are okay, even though someone close to them has died."

Another important aspect of the camp, says Dupuis, is to show kids it's all right to have fun. Activities throughout the weekend include, campfires, canoeing, rock-climbing and horseback riding.

Therapeutic help

Dupuis said campers participate in therapeutic and guided activities as well that help them deal with emotional aspects of grief. She said an elder also comes to the camp and works with the kids.

"We actually do a memorial honouring service for the campers to be able to acknowledge the loved one that has passed and do a little bit of a service, which ends with a very large amazing fireworks display for all of the kids to really celebrate the life that their loved ones had lived," said Dupuis.

She said the camp can be a powerful experience for volunteers as well.

"Camp is unlike any other experience that you will ever have."she said. "I think if you are looking to really make a difference in a young person's life this is exactly the way that you can fill that role."

Those wishing to volunteer need to be over 18 and provide a criminal record check. 

More information can be found on the Caring Hearts website.

About the Author

Cory Coleman is a reporter, web writer and associate producer for CBC Saskatchewan. Have a story idea? Email cory.coleman@cbc.ca

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