For the second year, The River Community Christian Reformed Church in Edmonton, Alta., is offering Discover Canada Kids Camp (DCKC), a summer camp specifically for children who have been in Canada for three years or less. “Often we think of the needs of immigrants and newcomers to Canada in terms of housing, clothes, and food,” said pastor Bruce Gritter. “However, one of their greatest needs is for community. Through Discover Canada Kids Camp, we endeavor to provide that.”
DCKC was Gritter’s idea. He and his wife, Sharon, are very involved in the community in a variety of ways; they “became convinced that something like this could really work.” Last year, the camp ran for three weeks. This year, it runs for seven weeks. Children can register for some or all of the weeks. This year, 40 to 50 children ranging in age from 6 to 16 participate each week. More than half have come to Canada as refugees from Syria; there are also children from Korea, Egypt, Zimbabwe, Jamaica, Ukraine, and Lebanon. Those who cannot afford the fee may receive full scholarships or pay a reduced amount. The camps feature education in Canadian culture, English conversation, and Canadian food, animals, and plants. Twice a week there are field trips through the city of Edmonton and surrounding areas. Meals are provided by various donors such as the Edmonton Food bank and local restaurants.
The River runs the program in partnership with several agencies and businesses, including REACH, an Edmonton nonprofit that helps coordinate funding and resources; Canada Summer Jobs; and Immigrant and Refugee Services Canada.
“To come to a new country is overwhelming and scary, said Janessa Gritter, the camp’s program director. “Bringing this program to children new to Canada provides a way to extend a welcoming environment and God’s welcoming grace to people.”