New camp in N.S. looking to give young sexual abuse survivors hope

Click to play video: '‘Camp Hope’ aims to offer safe space for youth survivors of sexual abuse'
‘Camp Hope’ aims to offer safe space for youth survivors of sexual abuse
WATCH: A new camp in Nova Scotia is aiming to provide a sanctuary for child and youth survivors of sexual abuse. The creator of 'camp hope' says it offers a space safe where kids can simply be kids. Skye Bryden-Blom reports. – Nov 16, 2023

A new camp in Nova Scotia is aiming to provide a sanctuary for young sexual abuse survivors and their families.

The creator of Camp Hope says it offers a safe space for kids to just be kids.

“The idea behind Camp Hope is let’s do better than just okay,” says RCMP Cpl. Mark Sobieraj.

After spending several years working with the Internet Child Exploitation Unit, Sobieraj wanted to do more to help children.

The RCMP and Brigadoon Village, Canada’s largest pediatric medical camp, have teamed up to assist victims and their loved ones.

“It’s really rewarding for me, but it’s also very healing,” says Sobieraj. “After five years of doing this work, there are some scars there, but this has just been an opportunity for me to heal along with the campers and their families.”

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Cpl. Mark Sobieraj was inspired to launch Camp Hope after working with the RCMP Internet Child Exploitation Unit for several years. Skye Bryden-Blom/Global News

Sobieraj currently works as an investigator with the RCMP Major Crime Unit.

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In late September, he helped guide the inaugural three-day Camp Hope. Campers between the ages of five to 12, and their families, were invited to attend.

“Kids just had the opportunity to be kids,” says Cpl. Mark Sobieraj.

“There was no therapy or sessions or anything like that. They just had a great time with art, archery, fire building, wall climbing, nature hikes, and everything you would expect at camp.”

Brigadoon Village says the project was the perfect match for its programs.

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“By moving through this together, and to plan something so impactful on a child’s life, it makes their life trajectory better when they know they’re not alone,” says CEO Heather MacDonald.

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A social worker with the IWK Children’s Hospital says Camp Hope offers a unique social experience to help break down the stigma around sexualized trauma.

“When we talk about sex and sexual abuse, it often creates big feelings from everybody involved,” says Suspected Trauma and Abuse Response Team clinical social worker Roben Keddy.

“It wouldn’t be uncommon to experience shame as the person who is directly impacted, parents and family members, grandparents, aunts and uncles, or anyone involved,” she says.

Sobieraj says feedback has been positive and work is underway to secure funding to ensure Camp Hope returns next year.

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