Organizers of a Tri-Nation pilot project held at Punky Lake Wilderness Camp in March hope the camp will be the first of many aimed at bringing youth together to foster respect and understanding.
Officially the three camps, funded by the federal department of justice, wrapped up with a closing ceremony acknowledging camp volunteers and participants last week at the Overlander Hotel.
Approximately 60 youth aged 10-17 participated in the week-long camps that focussed on deterring youth-gang involvement, fostering respect, and building on culture and environmental conservation through activities.
“The main focus is to identify gang activity and deal with issues around that. Family breakdown, drugs, alcohol, community breakdown and letting kids know there is always somebody there for them,” says Lisa Weget, administrator for the Punky Lake Wilderness Camp Society.
The camp was a collaborative affair between the Secwepemc, Tsilhqot’in and Carrier First Nations.
Camp mentors were a former First Nations youth gang member from Winnipeg, RCMP members, Mayor Kerry Cook and others.
Weget says she could see the youth change even during the short time they spent at camp.
“You could see kids come alive,” she says. “This is a sign to show there are good things coming and that we really need to invest in kids at the government level, at the community level and as parents.”
The society’s next goal is to improve one of the camp’s buildings to allow for expansion of programs.