Toronto star

Moorelands builds confidence and keeps kids coming back

‘I look at the world differently since I came’ to Moorelands

Fatima and Melvin keep coming back to Moorelands Camp for the adventures and chilled out atmosphere.


Fatima and Melvin keep coming back to Moorelands Camp for the adventures and chilled out atmosphere.

KAWAGAMA LAKE, ONT.—She’s been coming to camp for seven years but Fatima still gets the butterflies on the bus ride north to Moorelands.

“I don’t know why I’m nervous because as soon as I get to camp, everything is perfect,” says the 14-year-old. “I love it here and it may sound like a cliche but this is my second home. I wouldn’t ever go anywhere else.”

Maybe it’s not nerves, but anticipation of great days to come.

The teen, who lives in Toronto’s Thorncliffe Park neighbourhood and is going into Grade 9 at Victoria Park Collegiate this fall, revels in the positive, “uplifting” atmosphere at camp and the people who make it such a special place. “There’s always something great going on and it’s always fun,” says Fatima.

Among her favourite activities is the ropes course which is no easy feat to master. Fatima takes the challenge in stride, however, and prides herself on conquering the tough stuff.

When the thermometer climbs to scorching as it has recently, Fatima and the rest of the kids at camp will be found in the water. Fatima admits she dreams about camp only to have a rude awakening when she opens her eyes and finds herself in her bedroom at home instead of a cabin in the woods.

She hasn’t merely picked up outdoor skills, but life skills such as putting the needs of others first. It’s part of the overall camp experience at Moorelands, where respect, responsibility, caring, fairness, trustworthiness and citizenship are words to live by woven into every activity. What campers learn at Moorelands goes home with them and seeing campers embrace those life lessons has been has been rewarding to see for Mary “Poppins” Campbell, assistant programs manager at Moorelands in the city and camp.

Hers is a unique perspective — she works with children in after-school programs in Toronto and then at camp in Dorset, east of Bracebridge. “I’m fortunate to see how our programs impact our children.”

Melvin, 15, is back at Moorelands for his fourth summer adventure. Being there “is a nice introduction to summer.” Once shy, Melvin has come into his own and says camp opened doors for him by giving him the opportunity to step outside his comfort zone.

“When you do that, great things happen,” he says.

For one, he’s met lifelong friends who look forward to getting together at camp once a year. “We share stories about what’s been happening outside of camp and basically pick up where we left off,” says Melvin.

The result is a self-assured, independent young man who has tried things at camp he would never have a chance to do at home, like canoeing. “The hardest part of camp is the mosquitoes,” which are as big as crows this summer.

Leaving isn’t easy either.

“Camp is one of the best places to be,” he says recommending kids expand their boundaries and for unforgettable adventures. “No matter what, you’ll have a life changing experience at camp.”

Melvin did.

“Mine was making friends with so many people who have many talents. I learn from them and they learn from me. I look at the world differently since I came to camp. I see the world full of opportunity, and that I have a chance to make a difference.”

Khizer Kameran, alias “Bismarck,” his camp name at Moorelands, has seen the difference a week at camp can make. Part of the camp maintenance crew, he’s also “captain” of the launch that transports kids to and from Moorelands, in the middle of Kawagama. He can spot those who have never been out of their own urban neighbourhoods, let alone set foot on a boat.

Those kids are excited and awestruck as they ride out into the lake, the wind in their hair and the water all around them. When they leave, they’re that much more mature and confident. Brought home with their dirty laundry are experiences that will stay with them for a lifetime.

“It’s exciting to see,” says Kameran, 19, adding he had considered working in construction in the summer but fate intervened. Being on staff at Moorelands and making a difference in the lives of children is his dream job.

Besides on really hot days when the temperature is sizzling in the city, he can go jump in the lake, just like the kids.

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