A Summer to Remember: Camp at Rotholme Women’s & Family Shelter

Maggie Calderone (left) and Andrea Giraldo (right), Rotholme's camp counsellors, Summer 2018

Maggie Calderone (left) and Andrea Giraldo (right), Rotholme’s camp counsellors, Summer 2018

This isn’t your average summer camp. With camp counsellors Margaret (“Maggie”) Calderone and Andrea Giraldo from Fanshawe’s Child and Youth Care program, the children attending  Rotholme’s camp are involved in a ton of fun activities, albeit, in an unconventional environment.

Andrea, in her third year of the Child and Youth Care program, always liked working with kids, and since her mother works with children with special needs, it seems like it was only natural for her to follow down a similar path. “My mom always said that I was a natural working with kids, so I decided to take this program to see where it could lead me, and each year I like it even more.”

Maggie, in her second year, has experience working with children, but was initially interested in pursuing music. “I had a plan. I was going to take music at Western. But in my last year of high school I started reconsidering that idea; I wanted to do more than just something for me, I wanted to help people. So, after doing some research, I found the Child and Youth Care program and enrolled. I’ve loved it since I started.”

Both Andrea and Maggie were drawn to work at Rotholme because of the different experience working in a shelter could offer and what that could mean for their own skill sets and career paths. Each counsellor was highly recommended by respected individuals in their field, and they were determined to give the children in shelter at Rotholme a summer to remember.

Since the camp is for children from the ages of three to 12, there’s a significant age gap to consider while planning for camp activities. But Andrea and Maggie tackled the challenge head on while planning theme weeks so that there is always something for each youth to enjoy.

The theme board for each week of camp

The theme board for each week of camp – Camping is featured for one of the weeks

They have to be flexible though since they can only work with what resources are available. So they planned themes around what they had available at Rotholme. Some theme weeks have included Dinosaur Week, Plants & Animals, Enchanted Kingdom, and Superhero Week. Some future themes the kids have to look forward to include a talent show week and Around the World. For Around the World, the children will be able to try different foods and learn about various cultures from countries around the world. And since Rotholme is quite multi-cultural, the children will be able to share information and food from their own cultures with the others in the camp as well.

Working in a shelter with children is rather different than places like schools and community centres. Instead, children come and go all the time, with no continuity in attendance since new families arrive and all families are trying to find more permanent housing. “It provides a mix of feelings,” notes Maggie. “On one hand, we are incredibly happy that their family has found more permanent housing, but on the other, we are sad to see kids go because we miss them.” But, overall, they have found it is incredibly rewarding to give the kids at Rotholme an enjoyable summer.

Seeing the children work together has also been something very rewarding for Maggie and Andrea. “With such a large gap in ages, sometimes it’s difficult to keep everyone entertained,” mentions Andrea. “But at times, we see the older kids help out the younger kids with activities like bracelet making, and it’s just really great to see.”

The camp begins registration each morning, offering flexibility for the families. Since there isn’t a full week, or two week, commitment to the camp, these children can have the fun of summer camp and the parents don’t have to worry about the financial cost of a camp, transportation, or altering move times around a camp schedule. The average number of weeks a child attends camp is three to five weeks, since it depends on where the family is in the housing cycle.

With that in mind, each week is packed with activities that every child should be able to enjoy in the summer. In the morning, there is an ice breaker for the kids, crafts, and play-time before they enjoy lunch with their families; in the afternoon there’s an ice breaker for anyone who might have registered into Rotholme since the morning, games, playground activities or an outing. Once a month there’s an outing to go see a movie, go bowling, or they go to a place like Storybook Gardens. Birthday Celebrations happen each month as well where children get to make their own sundaes and they get a gift from the leftover Christmas stock. The camp counsellors do what they can to make sure these children get a memorable summer with the resources they have.

The children are wonderfully appreciative of the camp programming. Not to mention the parents. The camp gives kids the time to be kids, have fun, create summer memories, and learn something new. The camp also gives parents the time they need to focus on finding housing, speaking with counsellors and attending other appointments without having to worry about child care. It’s an invaluable resource for each and every person in shelter at Rotholme.

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Written by Rachel Ganzewinkel, Communications & PR Coordinator

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