September 20, 2018
For nine years, Kenya has spent one week of her summer vacation at one of her favourite places in the world: Camp Ten Oaks.
Camp Ten Oaks is a one-week sleepaway camp for children and youth from LGBTQ+ identities, families and communities. Kenya comes from an LGBTQ+ family, and found Camp Ten Oaks as a place where she was no longer alone in her experience.
“No matter who you are, no matter where you come from, you are going to be accepted.”
“The impact of camp on the children and youth who participate in it is that they get to meet other kids who are like them,” says Hannah McGechie, Executive Director of Ten Oaks Project. “For a lot them, that’s the first time they’ve ever met somebody else who is trans, or who has two moms or two dads. So they’ve often gone through life until this point not seeing themselves represented in school, in the media… and that can be really hard, and really isolating.”
Camp Ten Oaks opened in 2005, and now reaches capacity every year with 100 campers. The program offers outdoor adventure, waterfront, arts, social justice activities and sports that build on kids’ self-esteem, life skills, independence, leadership and self-confidence.
In the past five years, United Way has invested more than $550,000 in initiatives that support Ottawa’s LGBTQ+ community. This includes family counselling and support for LGBTQ+ seniors and youth, who often face homophobia, transphobia and higher levels of discrimination and harassment.
By bringing youth from LGBTQ+ communities together in a safe space that focuses on play, Camp Ten Oaks is able to build resilient, confident kids who go on to be leaders in their communities.