Dawson College students making a difference at Camp Weredale

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WATCH: A group of students from Dawson College spent their first week back to school at Camp Weredale, a place for under-privileged youth. As Phil Carpenter reports, the CEGEP students are volunteering their time and learning a few life lessons along the way – Aug 30, 2019

Camping season is over, but for a few days Camp Weredale in St. Hypolite, north of Montreal, will be home to students from Dawson College.

The camp, run by the Weredale Foundation, has existed for 85 years. Their mission is to teach leadership, team building and other life skills in a camp setting, to kids with limited opportunities.

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“They’re learning group living, they’re learning to get along with each other in their cabins, they’re learning how to make decisions as a group,” explained Elizabeth Pusztai, who runs the place.

They also try to give a nature experience to kids who might not usually get to go camping. Some of the campers are clients of Bathshaw Youth and Family Services.

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“We also have campers who come here, for whom this camp has become a family tradition,” Pusztai told Global News. “Their parents were here, their grandparents were here.”

The camp hosts 340 participants during the season who range in age from five to 17. Pusztai said they can accommodate 85 campers per session and that they run four sessions.

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But running a non-profit camp can be costly, she said, and help is needed for upkeep.

According to Marc Hainaut, who teaches in Dawson’s Recreation Leadership Training program, that’s where his students can help.

“Camps today don’t have the money,” he said. “Day camps have taken over camps like this and they’re just in dire need of help.”

About a hundred of his students are at the campsite for the Labour Day long weekend as part of their coursework — to learn how to run a camp. They’re also going to be doing some much-needed work around the site to spruce it up.

“So for about an hour and a half, in about two days, we’re going to have all our students giving back to this camp,” Hainaut noted.

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Work includes rebuilding campfire pits and fixing an erosion problem near some huts where rainwater is washing away the sand, putting some huts at risk.

Myka Taylor, one of the teachers in the program, said it’ll be a kind of reforestation project.

“What we will be doing is making natural kinds of steps into the ground, and then we’re gonna be filling them in with dirt,” she said. “Then we’re gonna be planting it with different trees we find in the forest.”

Students like third-year Kathleen Collins said supporting camps like these is important.

She pointed out that “these camps make a big difference in how children learn and how they learn to play.”