Manitoba camp for gay youth hailed as a success
CTV.ca News Staff
Published Saturday, September 1, 2007 10:20PM EDT
Manitoba's first camp for gay youth, called an "absolutely amazing success" by organizers, was launched by a group of gay adults who remember their own camping experiences as unbearable.
Camp Aurora's inaugural four-day program ended Thursday, with 29 youth between the ages of 14 and 21 taking part. "Everyone was talking about how they were already excited for next year," camp director Jonny Sopotiuk told CTV.ca.
The camp's goal was to provide some acceptance, support and camaraderie not easily found outside Winnipeg's relatively small gay community.
Modeled after a similar camp in Alberta, Camp Aurora focused on "building and nurturing the leadership capabilities and resiliency of LGBTT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans-identified and Two-spirited) and allied youth."
Camper Chantel Theroux said that at school, she finds it difficult sometimes to connect with people who have similar problems or interests. "So this is a great opportunity to get together to share and have fun."
The camp was heavily subsidized, funded in part by community groups and the provincial government. Campers paid only a $25 registration fee, and even that was waived for some who couldn't afford it.
"We wanted to make the camp available to everybody," Sopotiuk said.
Traditional activities such as rope climbing and rock climbing were mixed with more creative classes like belly dancing. Talks on safe sex, body image and health and wellness were also part of the schedule.
"It's hard to find this in our community, this kind of support," 20-year-old Scott Childs said.
Jeff Vallis, 19, said the camp has given him a "bigger knowledge base and more willingness to participate in the community ... I definitely want to join a few peer groups or volunteer."
Response from the larger community in Winnipeg has been encouraging.
"We only received positive reactions within the queer and gay community, and even the broader community, we've received really great support" Sopotiuk said. "We're really happy that the larger community realizes how much a camp like this is need for the youth in attendance."
Camp organizers are discussing plans to make the camp longer than the current four days. "We've had comments from participants that it wasn't long enough ... But we have to really debate it."
There are plans to launch similar camps in Halifax and other cities across Canada.
With a report by CTV's Jill Macyshon