A series highlighting the good works of the OEE partners to which PACT will be donating.
Ross McIntyre answers some questions about his work with The Couchiching Community Initiative in Orillia.
1) What is CCI? What was the inspiration behind it?
The CCI began over two years ago. Since 1946, Camp Couchiching has seen the transformative power of camp and outdoor ed. In 2011, we made plans to explore other outlets for these great experiences. Camp and Outdoor Ed. have an incredible impact on participants. It can boost self-esteem, increase attitudes towards physical health, improve environmental awareness, lower stress and anxiety, and help with socialization. Since the camp and outdoor ed. experience is such a valuable one, we asked 'how else could we do this?' The answer was the Couchiching Community Initiative.
A community focus made sense. Every camp is it's own micro-community and, typically, they are excellent examples of healthy and balanced communities. This thought was the seed for what we've grown here in Orillia.
2) How does it impact the community?
The impact on the community has been growing in scope with the CCI itslef. We focus on Programs and Partnerships. Regarding programs, we visit local schools as a cost-free way of engaging with camp, we're involved with initiatives like National Youth Week and the community gardens, and we also have taken a lead in founding a local organization called Stand Up! Orillia Against Bullying to localize and address the issue of bullying. Most camps are inclusive and bullying is a small or non-existent problem. We thought there was something to this that we could learn from and share and we were right.
Partnerships have been another huge part of our community engagement efforts. There are always collaborative and reciprocal possibilities with other organizations so we've spent a lot of time finding those good fits. We are truly moving towards a more collaborative and less competitive society and non-profits and charities seem to be the first organizations really making use of this approach. We've had great success in partnering with Georgian College on several programs, both ours and theirs, and the Orillia campus is dedicating a great deal of resources to community education and partenrships. We are both on the same wavelength and are willing to commit to action, which is how the win-win situation emerges. The same can be said of the Orillia Youth Centre, Boys and Girls Club of Orillia, Couchiching Conservancy, Mariposa Songwriter's Club, and nearly all the local schools.
It has been great to have some successes over the last two year but, as we continue to grow, we hope the real impact will be seen 5, 10 , or 20 years down the road.
3) What does it mean to you personally?
There is absolutely nothing that I'd rather be doing or working on. Having worked with youth for over 10 years in a variety of capacities, I realize that I personally need to be in a role that involves creating social value. I tend to put a lot of time and extra thought into my work and, acknowledging that, I realized that I'd better be doing something that I was passionate about.
Camp Couchiching staff and directors at all levels are open to change and trying something new. This openness is key, especially in times where many camps, non-profits, or charities are plateauing or worse. I feel that if there's benefit to what we do in camps and outdoor education, we should actively be eliminating the idea of an 'off season'. This, of course, requires resources and people to champion the idea BUT it requires less resources than you think and, as far as champions of this cause go, there are many more of them out there than you think too.
So, for me the CCI is a rallying point for my passions: camp, outdoor ed, youth engagement, and community building.