Demand is high, kids are having fun
By Gisele McKnight
What began as a pilot project last year is now a highly sought-after program at several parishes.
Camp Medley’s Camp On The Road (COTR) was a mere notion 18 months ago. Last summer it was a two-week experiment. This summer there was a waiting list for the eight weeks of programs.
“I’d say COTR has grown faster this summer than we ever thought,” said Alyson Caldwell, COTR director.
This summer, COTR has or will make stops at the parishes of St. George, Gagetown, Cambridge & Waterborough, New Bandon, St. Margaret’s and the Nerepis & St. John (The Rez), the Westside Anglican Mission in Saint John, plus a partnership between the parishes of Central Kings, Upham and Hampton.
Each week, a team arrives, joins local volunteers and puts on a VBS-like program with a distinct camp feel, including an indoor “campfire” in a bucket and camp songs.
“We use the same Bible curriculum as Camp Medley,” said Alyson. “We do similar crafts, nature, snacks, sports, campfire songs. It’s very typical camp stuff.”
This is Alyson’s second year running COTR.
“This week is really lovely,” she said of the Central Kings, Upham and Hampton partnership that took place in Bloomfield last week. “The group is smaller compared to what we’ve been working with. It’s more intimate and the kids are having lots of fun.”
In St. George, they had 50 kids participate. At both WAM and The Rez, 35-40 kids attended. So a VBS with 17 in Bloomfield was less noisy, more personal.
Alyson and her team of counsellors, Dimitra Bountalas and Adam Young, worked with Archdeacon Rob Marsh, the Rev. Brenda Fowler and Amy Hoyt in Bloomfield.
“Amy Hoyt was the spearhead behind it here,” said Rob. “She said ‘can we set this up?’ and I said yes.”
Rob pitched in doing various chores, one of which was drying dishes, although “I look forward to the ice cream break in the afternoons!” he said.
“The Camp Medley kids run the whole thing,” said Brenda. “We just help where needed. I’m loving it so far. I think it’s great seeing the kids so happy.”
The partnership between Central Kings, Upham and Hampton came about by accident. Central Kings and Upham do everything together, but when they applied to COTR, there was a waiting list. In the meantime, St. Paul’s in nearby Hampton also applied.
“Then another church dropped out, and they offered us a combined one,” said Amy, who jumped at the chance to have COTR in the parish.
“We haven’t had VBS for a couple of years. It’s hard to get the help and the funds,” she said. “I saw this and applied for it.”
Alyson knows the importance of local volunteers, not only for their help, but for the future.
“The aim is to integrate the church into the community,” she said. “It’s good to have the volunteers so that if kids come to church in the fall, they already know someone here.”
As for the two counsellors, they seemed to be having as much fun as the kids.
“It’s better than expected,” said Dimitra. “It’s cool to come to all these churches and meet all these kids. Also with being at the camp, it’s the best of both.”
Adam loved going to camp as a child, and now as a counsellor, he’s still having a great time.
“It’s the most fun I’ve had,” he said. “There’s nothing else I’d want to do. We look at each other all the time and say ‘we’re actually getting paid for this!’”
When Camp Medley director Maren McLean-Persaud developed the summer program, she had three aims: bring a unique ministry program to parishes; take camp to kids who may not be able to go to camp; and give the teenaged leaders-in-training and staff a unique, hands-on learning experience outside of camp. There was also the hope that COTR kids might someday become Camp Medley kids.
That hope is already being realized, said Alyson.
“Some parents have registered their kids [for Camp Medley] who went to COTR last year or even this year,” she said.
Maren is pleased with the interest from parishes and the success of the program.
“It’s been an exciting summer, but also one full of learning because it was a big jump from two camps on the road to eight in one summer,” she said. “But I don’t regret just going for it.
“We have gotten a lot of positive feedback from parents and volunteers. We really think that COTR has the power to transform communities. To have camp and all our values leaving our main site in Upper Gagetown and going into other parts of the province is really exciting!”
Maren is hopeful COTR will continue next year.
“There are churches who already want to book next summer’s date, but it’s dependent on finding the right staff to run it. Our prayer will always be that God will call the right people to the program.”
COTR’s remaining summer schedule is as follows:
Aug. 8-11: Parish of St. Margaret’s, Fredericton
Aug. 14-17: Parish of New Bandon
Aug. 21-24: Parish of Cambridge & Waterborough