All Hands on Deck

On Saturday morning, I woke up excited for our Catching the Spirit overnight leadership training; a weekend of team-building, new friendships and magical nature moments. On Sunday, I left Capilano River regional park with more excitement, more unforgettable memories, and higher expectations for the summer than I had ever imagined.

Whether it be the zero waste challenge where every park achieved their zero-waste goal, or the survivor challenge where we were informed that a storm was nearing and we needed to assemble a shelter using very limited resources; whatever the challenge, the Peer Leaders and Mentorvisors were pushing their comfort zones, encouraging one another and putting their leadership qualities to the test. We played one game where four people combined to create a super human; one person was the eyes, one the legs, one the hands and one the ears. Now there is a game that involves communication and utmost trust.

Over my years with CTS, I’ve come to realize that the program really changes depending on the people involved. This year –where only three out of the ten “Mentorvisors” are returning from last year—has an overall different feeling from previous years. This year we have a bat echolocation expert, a master of every campfire song in the books, two devout vegans, one miniature giraffe, and a whole load of passionate bicycle enthusiasts. With so many unique personalities, it’s amazing how united we are as a group. When the Mentorvisors partook in an activity titled “The Leadership Wheel”, the outcome was as follows: all five of the female Mentorvisors (plus Nat, the Program Coordinator) were determined “Nurturers”, and all five of the male variety were dubbed “Sages”, meaning that they are the type of leader who binds all leadership styles together.

During our Saturday night campfire, I took a step back to observed everything that was going on around me; Peer Leaders were discussing visions they had for their summers at camp, some musically minded fellows were in the corner singing, laughing and jamming out on their guitar. There was a supervisor who was exercising abdominal muscles with his hilarious jokes, and at the other side of the pit, there were some Peer Leaders learning more about each other’s personal lives and conversing their plans for post-secondary. I sat back and watched this all unfold, as I realized how strikingly different this group is from previous years. That is what I love; year after year, I could come back to CTS and never lose interest, because it is not so much about the program itself, but about the people involved. It just goes to show that CTS’s motto couldn’t be more accurate; “run by youth for youth”. And as Nat always reminds us, “this is your program, guys”.

So when the summer rolls around each year, and when people ask me where I’m off to for the weekend, they give me blank stares as I answer, “Catching the Spirit”. I take great pride in explaining to them what exactly that is. No it is not just any summer camp, and it is not even just an environmental stewardship summer camp. Honestly, when they ask, I could explain it to my friends as being anything I want it to be. And in a few weekends from now when the Burnaby Lake leadership team gets together for our in-park training, we will use everything we’ve learned about teamwork, sustainability, communication, trust, self-awareness, goal-setting, stewardship, empowerment… etc, to create a plan for our summer that is magical, exciting, unforgettable, but most of all, everything we want it to be.


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