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04 Feb, Saturday
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Montreal Families

Nova Scotia’s camp with a consciense

When she was a little girl, Kaia Singh’s parents brought her and her sister to anti-fracking protests and rallies for Aboriginal rights. They raised their daughters to stand up for the downtrodden and marginalized and to be aware of the inequalities that exist in our society.

As she grew up, Kaia’s interest in social justice issues did not waver. She did notice, however, that whenever she attended these events, she was surrounded by people much older than she was. Living in Tatamagouche, N.S., she previously attended a youth leadership program at the Tatamagouche Centre, a local retreat and learning establishment, where she was introduced to the Social Justice Youth Camp. The idea of sharing her thoughts with young, like-minded individuals piqued her interested and she signed up for a summer session.

The camp was recently given the Irving and Ruth Pink Award for Youth Development and Social Justice. Started by the legal aid office at Nova Scotia’s Dalhousie University three years ago, the award celebrates people and organizations that contribute to youth development and address social justice issues.

Since opening in 2003, teens 15 to 19 discuss and engage in activities relating to issues from racism and food politics to gender and sexuality. Along with the regular program, the camp offers individuals in their 20s and 30s the opportunity to become camp facilitators where they garner leadership skills and work with counsellors to create content for various activities and workshops.

“We wanted to give young people the opportunity to be creative around social justice issues,” said Steve Law, the social transformation program coordinator at the centre. Many schools touch briefly upon these topics, but do not go into them in depth, he said.

During this five-day summer program, teens discuss and reflect on different topics through interactive activities. To learn about the Canadian immigration process, for example, campers engaged in a simulation game where they went through the motions of applying for citizenship and learned about the obstacles new immigrants face upon arriving in Canada.

“It’s an interesting way to see what people go through,” said Kaia, who participated in the activity.

Campers also flex their multimedia muscles by creating video skits and radio broadcasts to tackle issues such as racism, sexuality and gender. Some artistically-inclined campers have made their own tie-dye T-shirts, while others painted an expansive and intricate mural to mark the camp’s 10th anniversary.

After three years of attending the camp, Kaia has continued to explore her passion for social justice. She and her sister have led workshops of their own in schools across the community, discussing topics like fair-trade and racism using techniques and activities they learned at the camp. Other campers have gone on to create social justice clubs of their own, and have become engaged and active members of the community.

This summer, the camp will run from Aug. 24-28. It costs $450, but because of fundraising, personal donations and funding from different groups, there are bursaries available.

For more information, call 1-800-218-2220 or visit socialjusticeyouthcamp.wordpress.com

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