Working side by side with the inclusion services department at the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver, the Camp Shalom team is looking at a modified version of its counselor-in-training program, as several of the campers have stated they would be interested in participating. Camp Shalom is determined to keep committed Jewish youth engaged, and help them develop and grow in the community.
Camp Shalom has been providing a unique and memorable experience for all campers that come through its doors, including those campers living with special needs. As Camp Shalom has grown in size over the last few years, so has its inclusion program, now serving approximately 10 families. The Camp Shalom inclusive program integrates campers with special needs into the general camp program alongside other campers each week. This would not be able to happen without the dedication of the staff members.
“I was fortunate enough to work with three girls over the summer. From sharing our stories to sharing laughs, they taught me a lot of things about life. They taught me to be patient and to live my life to the fullest. The bond we created is a bond that can never be broken,” said one staff member after her first summer with Camp Shalom.
Ensuring that all campers get to participate in activities fully and receive a robust camp experience is the goal of the inclusivity program. Before each camp session begins, the camp director team and specific counselors meet with families so that children with special needs have a chance to meet their counselors and familiarize themselves with the JCCGV prior to the first day at camp.
The program has an effect not just on the campers, but the counselors, as well.
“Working with Tal this summer was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life,” said Mischa Smolkin. “His positive energy and joy made every single day at camp special. Tal made a hugely positive impact on my life and has changed my perspective. Overall, working with him so closely created a bond that I have yet to experience in a summer camp setting and will treasure for years to come.”
The Camp Shalom inclusive program is possible thanks to the contributions of the Snider Foundation, Diamond Foundation, Lohn Foundation and Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver.