The importance of summer camps

With summer just around the corner, children in our community will be spending the summer months attending day camps and overnight camps across the city. Summer camps are essential for guardians who work full-time and require childcare when their kids are off school. However, summer camps are not only a child-care alternative for the summer months, they are also vital in the social development and skill-building of both its campers and staff.

Local York University student, Diana Boa explains her experience, “I had a very positive experience at camp, notably StepSones for Youth Summer Camp, it was one of the things I found myself looking forward to the most. I believe that it gave me lasting memories that I will always carry with me… there I learned a lot. I became more of a team player and more aware of my team spirit with the different cheers and team building activities. But most importantly, StepStones Camp made me aware of how and why we should respect the land we live on, it taught me to embrace nature at a young age.”

Summer camps not only expose youth to different and new activities from those in the classroom, it also allows for a structured opportunity for them to learn and grow. Overnight camps allow children to feel more independent and ultimately instill a sense of self-confidence through various skill building activities like canoeing, swimming, learning to build a campfire all while socializing and creating lasting friendships. It also provides a mental break from academics and ultimately a gateway to new experiences.

Diana explains why summer camp was important to her, “coming from a city like Toronto there are not (in my experience) a lot of possibilities of experiencing that authentic outdoors atmosphere. Also, in my case being in a situation where my family dynamic was unfavourable at the time, it really gave me the chance to get away from that and experience things that I would have never had the chance to do like canoeing, there was no lakes in Scarborough, where I grew up, for me to do that.”

Overnight camps allow for youth growing up in urban settings to connect with the outdoors and the spaces our province has to offer. On the other hand, city-based camps allow campers to experience all the great spaces our city has to offer while remaining active and encouraged to be creative through arts and crafts projects.

Both campers and staff benefit from summer camps. Although I never attended camp as a child, I did work at an overnight camp for over 7 years. There, I found a passion for working with youth and the importance of community. I learned about social justice, emotional intelligence, and being conscious of how my everyday choices affect our environment. To this day, some of my fondest memories and closest friendships were made at camp.

The new North York Women’s Shelter is almost ready to open

The North York Women’s Shelter has released ground-breaking news – they will have a brand new facility come Autumn 2019. During the closure of the former site, residents have been relocated to other locations or have found long-term housing accommodations. Upon the launch of the new facility, women and children will be gradually transitioned into the space in order to bring the shelter back to full capacity and best serve the local community.

The facility will be 24,000 sq. ft. in size, with an abundant amount of windows installed to allow for natural lighting throughout the building. The reception and intake area has been envisioned to instill a calm atmosphere, with comfortable furnishings and soft music set to play in the background. There will be a secondary entrance for visitors and those looking to inquire for more information about the space.

Numerous lounges have been integrated into the floor plan of the facility. These lounges are large enough to both accommodate and encourage a social atmosphere and overall sense of community. The kitchen and dining room area have been specifically designed for a communal purpose. Residents will be encouraged to cook for themselves as well as eat together at each meal. The notion of supporting one another through routine and open spaces is integral to the health and wellbeing of the residents. There will also be a sufficient amount of counsellors to provide additional advice, provisions and referrals. In addition to providing refuge and treatment, the aim of the programs that will be offered will be to break the cycle of violence and spread awareness to the community.

In terms of outdoor space, there will be a fenced-in garden and BBQ area in place for the enjoyment of the residents. Women can watch their children play together while they relax in a secluded space together.

The initial capacity of the building will be 30 people distributed between 17 bedrooms. Each bedroom will have a private bathroom for the sake of further ease and contentment. The 30 count includes both women and dependent children who will be utilizing beds, but not toddlers and newborns, as they will be provided with their own cribs. The maximum capacity for the new facility will be 40 people.

Another prominent feature of the new shelter is the pet lounge, which will be situated in the basement. Allowing women and children to bring their pets with them assists with the transition into the facility and into future accommodations. Pets and support animals offer emotional fulfillment and familiarity.

The new North York Women’s Shelter will serve as a benchmark for future housing designs and projects. The new facility will cost $12 million to construct, with $9 million secured and an additional $3 million remaining to be solidified through fundraising efforts. The Rotary Club of North York is a key stakeholder and donor for this project, having gifted the largest donation in the club’s history.

Students do not consent – how cuts to education are detrimental

On the eve of April 4th, hundreds of students across Ontario made posters and rallied support for when they collectively walked out of their classrooms to protest cuts being made to their education. A few weeks ago, Education Minister Lisa Thompson and Premier Doug Ford announced over $1 billion in cuts to our public education.

These cuts will mean 1000 fewer teachers in our classrooms just here in Toronto, class sizes of up to 40 students, inadequate support for children in Special Education programs including those with autism, and 4 compulsory online classes for high school students. Students all over our province will feel the pressure and inadequacy of our public schools as their classroom sizes continue to inflate and their education is used as a means to “balance” the budget.  

Minister Thompson justified these cuts by insisting that the lack of resources and help from teachers will make children “more resilien[t].” This argument is neither based in fact nor logic. Students attend school to learn – if teachers do not have the capacity to teach, they will fall through the cracks.

The reality is that parents and private services, like tutoring, will have to fill in these gaps in support. However, this asks: who will have access to help?

Low-income families and parents who do not have the resources nor time to help their children with homework and who cannot afford tutoring services will experience the most inequitable aspects of our education system. Children who recently immigrated and students whose parents are not familiar with the education system or have English as a Second Language will be at a further disadvantage.

Modern Canadian society often identifies education, or access to a good education, as the great equalizer. It is touted as a way for those from marginalized groups to have access to the “middle class.” This dream, or ideal, is getting further and further out of reach.

Over the last couple of decades, subsequent governments have grossly underfunded our education system. Cuts to education under the Conservative Harris Government and the funding freezes of the subsequent 15 years of Liberal government have created the conditions for a perfect storm here in Ontario.

Classroom sizes were already inflated, and funding freezes have led Ontario schools to have over $15 billion in repair backlog. Minister Thompson and Premier Ford are taking a bad situation and making it worse. Instead of investing more into our education, they want to cut over $1 billion from our schools.

What is most disheartening is that some of the same Conservative Caucus members supporting these cuts are the ones who send their children to private schools where the teacher-student ratio is 6:1 – allowing their children to get the help and assistance they need to succeed.

Access to good education should not be reserved for those who can afford $25,000 private school tuition.If we truly believe in a just and equitable society, we need to ensure our public education system is funded so teachers and support staff are well-equipped to help any child succeed.

Make no mistake – cuts to public education hurt all who attend public school. These cuts will further deepen the divide in our city and province across lines of income and race. We must stand up and speak out against the Ontario Government’s cuts.

If you are interested in taking action, please sign Progress Toronto’s petition and send an email to your local MPP, the Minister of Education, and Premier Ford! Check it out here: www.progresstoronto.ca