By: Anidra Francis School of Community and Health Studies
It all began with a resume, an interview, patience and an acceptance. The process to get on the GCELE Jamaica team was one of the most nerve racking parts of the GCELE itself. I was introduced to nine strangers, who like me were seeking a unique experience. All of us had come from all walks of life and we were all anxious to begin a life changing journey. I did not know these people and they did not know me but we all trusted each other to work as a team and live together as a family for 8 days.
From the very beginning of my experience I was exposed to the reality of being in a new world. Although I myself am from Jamaican descent, I never realized just how fortunate I am to live in a place like Canada. The first day at Camp Power to Be was so enlightening because of how welcome I felt amongst the volunteers and campers who had come out at 9am to learn about the importance of literacy, the power to be strong, united, a leader, trustworthy, kind and last but not least awesome!
The kids were so unique and each one had a different story to tell. Some acted out to seek attention and acceptance and others remained silent as to not make themselves known. They were all amazing to me because they always came back to the camp the next day with a positive attitude, smile and a “Goodmorning Miss!”
I tried every day to put myself in their shoes and see this experience from their point of view. I understood that being at camp was one of the most important experiences of the summer for the children. I caught myself several times thinking “Wow, it is too hot to be outside. I need some air conditioning and a cold bottle of water.” Only to realize that majority of the children did not even have air conditioning in their homes and some of them did not have access to cold bottles of water. All they had was a pipe to catch water from.
The moment that will change me forever was the last day after the talent show. When the excitement wore down I realized that my experience was over, that these kids were going to go home and forget my name and that I would be going home. I was so shocked that I grew so attached to these kids and how much they changed my view of what is important in the world. The youth everywhere are our future and some don’t have the guidance or the opportunity to thrive and grow to be their best selves. I believe that if people invested in children as much as they invested in clothes, shoes and electronics each generation would support each other’s potential and growth.
I went home feeling empowered and changed for the better. I felt that no matter what I do as long as I am setting an example for the youth, providing them with guidance and any resources I can give that I could make a difference. I came home with new friends that I know I will keep for a long time because we shared such an important experience together. The Camp Power to Be was aimed for the youth at the camp, but I believe they changed me as well. I feel like a new person and I feel now that everyone can make a change. Like a flower all that is needed is fresh soil (support), a seed (you) and a little water and sunshine (positive people and positive vibes) in which to bloom.