Each year, in addition to sponsoring children to attend The Saskatchewan Co-operative Youth Program (SCYP) Co-op Camp, Concentra provides time off for two employees to volunteer at the camp. This provides a unique educational, personal and professional development opportunity for the volunteers to join program alumni and others from the co-operative sector for a week at the lake to share knowledge and experiences. Let’s hear from our 2014 volunteers.
CALIN PASTUCH (Corporate Analytics)
I had the opportunity to be a sector staff member at a SCYP Co-op Camp this summer; and it was unforgettably an incredible experience. I had the pleasure of co-staffing 38 camp participants between the ages of 14 and 16 at Candle Lake.
Throughout the week, I was able to spend quality time with each individual. I had discussions with them about their future aspirations, shared ideas about the world on a variety of topics, helped them navigate through the challenges and changes they face through my own experiences, and joked and laughed with them as we all took in the great time we were having together. The staff prepared educational sessions based on the values and principles of the co-operative system. Some of the sessions included topics like co-operation, the harm in judging and labeling others, cultural diversity, and how co-operatives differ from private organizations. I led a session called Star Power, which brought to light how economic inequalities can happen in a society and what we can do to curb that inequality. Aside from educational sessions, we played many games, sang many songs, and had some heart-warming discussions that deepened our connections with one another.
It is truly special to see our youth make new friends, think from a different perspective, and learn the values and principles that are inherent in the co-operative system. Values and principles such as respect, co-operation, equality, and concern for the community, are important in our everyday life, and are essential pillars for society to grow and build upon.
I’m proud to be part of an organization that recognizes and sponsors programs like the SCYP. I know firsthand that the youth I connected with during our week at camp fully appreciate Concentra’s sponsorship and I would highly recommend to my colleagues to participate in programs like these in the future. It was truly a rewarding experience that I will keep with me for the rest of my life; and I’m looking forward to the next opportunity I get to help shape our youth for betterment of their lives and the overall community.
ALLISON TYMIAK (Strategic Financial Management)
Much to my delight, this was my first and much anticipated opportunity to try my hand at the camp counsellor experience, thanks to Concentra Financial for allowing me both the opportunity and the time off to do so. I watched a shy and reluctant group of 11-14 year olds board the bus heading to Last Mountain Lake transform into best buddies who were exchanging hugs, recent memories and contact numbers at the end of the last day.
It was great to see the enthusiasm and commitment from the other sector staff that came from credit unions and co-operatives across the province. Also the alumni staff was very kind in letting us know how much they appreciated the maturity and experience we brought to the camp sessions. Each of us were responsible for conducting an educational session that taught the youth something about the co-operative system, and we were able to make that session all our own. I held a Global Trivia challenge in the form of a ‘Jeopardy-like’ game show with the costume, the theme music, cue cards for the audience, and samples of fair trade chocolate to end it off! The kids really took to the game and the debriefing session. They really enjoyed learning about current global issues, challenges faced by people in developing countries, and the role and importance of co-operatives in aiding developing countries.
The five-day week was filled with games, songs (I still have the ‘Banana Song’ in my head), fun educational sessions, water activities, beach time, and even chore time. I must say I was impressed at how well the kids participated in their daily responsibilities! I learned that they do in fact like a certain amount of structure and involvement. I have never seen kids so excited about planning a dance and seeing it all work out after all their efforts! I, of course, got to dance like I was 12 again and once again got a kick out of the group dynamics in that setting. The kids were also very surprised and equally pleased to have Eric Dillon, CEO of Conexus Credit Union, come out to the camp site as one of many sponsoring credit unions to learn what it was all about.
The reward at the end of it all was seeing the comments from all the kids (and fellow staffers) at the end of the week on my People Poster. I left feeling like I had made a unique and positive impression on each of the 28 participants. Despite a sun burn, a host of mosquito bites, sore eardrums from a week of screaming and giggly kids, I wouldn’t have traded the experience for the world. I would also highly recommend to my colleagues that they consider participating in this program and help make a difference in the lives of our youth.