Bringing camp experience home amid pandemic

DAMARCUS Pasiowetz is having a different summer camp experience this year, but a surprisingly fun one, too.

The 13-year-old was wary at first of Simonhouse Bible Camp’s new online program — Damarcus was used to outdoor activities and face-to-face friendships as integral to the summer camp experience — but was quickly swayed when he realized the virtual programming planned by the camp had its own unique qualities.

 

“At first, I didn’t really want to attend, because camp, you think of going into nature,” he said.

 

“When it was going to be Zoom calls and stuff like that, I thought it was going to be boring… After my first Zoom meeting, we played some games over Zoom, and I started to really like coming to the camp.”

 

Damarcus and his mother, Leanne, are regulars at Simonhouse. Damarcus has attended its camp every year since 2016, and chose to continue attending even after COVID-19 restrictions moved the experience online.

 

For two weeks, Damarcus said he enjoyed several Zoom meetings a day with other campers and staff, pre-recorded videos, Bible studies and other online content provided by Simonhouse.

 

The camp, located in Flin Flon, typically offers five-day summer programs for children ages eight to 17, a two-day program for those ages six to eight, and a weekend fall youth retreat. While it is one of the Sunshine Fund’s accredited camps, its virtual services were offered free of charge this year — a choice executive director Darrell Janzen said was made in hopes of providing activities for families financially affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

The interest, Janzen said, was extensive; families from Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Alberta, and even one from northern Ireland reached out to him as interested in the program.

 

Pasiowetz said the virtual meetings were a positive way for children who would usually have spent the summer with friends to deal with some of the feelings of isolation brought on by pandemic restrictions, calling it a “great thing for their mental health.”

“I’m very appreciative that they thought outside the box and created this as an option for the youth, rather than just saying ‘We have to close our doors for the summer’ and not offer anything, I’m very grateful that this was an option,” she said.

 

“Because Damarcus still was able to meet a couple new friends, but he was able to recognize that some of the people he had met previously were there.”

 

Damarcus said his two weeks at Simonhouse ecamp was a great experience, and he plans to come back next summer — via a screen or in the great outdoors.

 

He hopes it’s in-person again: “Camp isn’t camp without being in nature.”

malak.abas@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: malakabas_

By: MALAK ABAS

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