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e-dition-August 29, 2007

Jana Morrison served as one of the Eco-Kids junior leaders this summer.
(Photo: Shawn Coates)

Free Eco-Kids Camp Vehicle to Fun and Future

By Naniece Ibrahim

Jana Morrison has big dreams.

“I want to perform on Broadway and I am planning to go to The University of Winnipeg to take theatre,” she explained with eagerness.

Morrison – a Grade 10 student at Sisler High School – is one of the 35 junior leaders recruited from inner-city high schools to be employees at The University of Winnipeg’s Eco-Kids Camp. Eco-Kids Camp gives the high-school students a summer job. It also trains them to be leaders, allowing them to give back to their community. This builds their confidence while working with the young campers alongside UWinnipeg Senior Leaders.

Eco-Kids One of Largest Camps for Inner-City, Aboriginal Youth
More than 700 inner-city youth are participating in the Camp at Sargent Park Arena. Participants range in age, from 7-12 and the camp is free. Children are provided with free transportation, lunch, snacks, t-shirts and equipment to ensure equal access.

This program is one of the largest in the city, and possibly across the country, that is aimed at Aboriginal and inner-city youth. The camp runs Monday-Friday for six one-week sessions throughout July and August and keeps fun and learning as part of curriculum.

The Eco-Kids day camp is an extension of the Innovative Learning Centre’s Eco-Kids and Enviro-Techs programs that operate out of inner-city and North End high schools during the school year, encouraging participation in extra-curricular activities, academic success and graduation.

Tap Kids on the Shoulder
Organizer Kevin Chief grew up in Winnipeg’s inner city and recognizes the hurdles these kids face regarding education.

“The No. 1 reason young people don’t go the university is not because they don’t have enough money,” explained Chief, “It isn’t because their parents didn’t graduate from university. The No. 1 reason they don’t go to university is simply because no one ever asked them. At this camp we are trying to tap a number of kids on the shoulder. We are saying university is a place for you, it’s a place you can be.”

The Junior and Senior Leaders have converted the old dusty arena into a festival of colors and creativity energy with the earth’s elements, earth, wind, fire and water as their guide.

Feel the Spirit
You can feel the spirit the moment you walk into the vitalized arena. In the background, Ray St. Germain can be heard strumming his guitar and singing a Métis song melded with kids’ voices and laughter echoing through the halls.


Jackie Sinclair enjoyed her time at Eco-Kids Camp. (Photo: Shawn Coates)

Ten-year-old Jackie Sinclair is a student at Weston. Chatting with her many camper friends, she explained how she found out about the program.

“People from the camp came to our school and asked if there are people that want to join,” she said with a smile. “Our teacher gave all the kids a note so we could show up. So I came.”

“It sounded like it would be lots of fun,” said Brayden Laliberte, aged 8, also from Weston School.“I really like the swimming and we get to play.”

More than Science and Swimming
Although this camp might look like its all fun and games, there is more to it than science and swimming.

“We tie a lot of it (fun) into education, into science and the environment,” Chief said. “This program offers an enriched summer opportunity that they typically wouldn’t get.”

Eco-Kids Camp offers these youth a safe and engaging place to learn and entices them into wanting an education. In cooperation with the Winnipeg School Division No. 1, the Eco-Kids Camp experience also features cultural teaching as one of its integral parts. Children learn the seven Ojibway teachings of truth, honesty, respect, wisdom, courage, love and humility.


Childern at Eco-Kids Camp had fun with science. (Photo: Shawn Coates)

Field trips are also part of the program including daily swims at Sargent Park Pool, visits to the Living Prairie Museum and Assiniboine Forest. Campers are also responsible for tending to a community “pizza” garden and a circle garden at UWinnipeg.

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