After two weeks of wrangling 30 children, you might say that I’m a little tired.
In fact, on the final day, I got home by 6, was asleep by 6:30, and slept right on through to 6:30 the next morning.
I am the summer student at the SPCA and my job this year was to organize and run the annual summer camp designed to educate and empower children on various animal issues. I knew from past experience with children that this might not be as easy as it sounded, but it turned out that I had an absolute blast.
Every day I saw something new that made me realize why educating kids and giving them a chance to experience issues firsthand is so important and rewarding.
The first week of the camp was 16 kids aged six to nine who were bursting with energy. On Monday, we had a tour at Little Qualicum Cheeseworks, the only SPCA-certified farm on Vancouver Island.
The bus ride took a little longer than expected and by the time we reached Parksville my head was ringing with a chorus of “Bums on the seats, please!”
At the farm, we had a wonderful wagon tour of and at the end, the children were allowed to enter the “critter” area, a grassy pasture with goats, sheep, a llama and a cat. Within moments, our group of bouncing children were transformed into a captivated whispering audience.
Each child couldn’t wait to show us just how cute the sheep they got to sit beside was. All it took to focus them was the heartbeat of a creature and a wooly coat to lace their fingers through.
“My favourite part was when one of sheep would just follow me around wherever I went and if I lay down, he would lay down beside me,” said Emily after the day at the farm.
Another of my favourite days was in the second week with the group of 10- to 12-year-olds. This group was significantly quieter but no less excited.
On the third day of camp we started our “take action” projects, which give the kids a chance to create a project around a specific animal issue, such as spaying and neutering or dogs in hot cars.
I was so impressed with the level of compassion and knowledge the kids had about all of the issues. Two of the girls even decided to write letters to mayors in the Valley about issues such as the Low Income Spay and Neuter Program, and dogs in hot cars.
“I don’t think it’s fair for dogs if they have to stay in a hot car with no food or water, and no fresh air,” said Sarah while writing her letter.
After two busy weeks including police dog presentations, Mountainaire Avian Rescue society (MARS) info sessions, CVNS guided walks and an SPCA tour day, myself and my volunteers (Cindy Russwurm, Elsie Hampshire and Erinn Eskilsson) were privileged to witness a group of children grow up just a little bit more and maybe, just maybe, we watched some budding new environmentalists and animal rights advocates in the making.
Thanks to the Comox Valley for giving us such an awesome two weeks!