2017 #Artegration Leadership Camp at YMCA Geneva Park

October 21 to 22, Nai and Culturelink Youth and Children Program co-organized our first #Artegration Leadership Camp at the beautiful Geneva Park in Orillia for a weekend. 29 Syrian children and youth, their parents and Nai facilitators, total 48 people, spent an unforgettable time there.

Our Syrian musicians Adham, Rahaf and Esmaeel facilitated two Arabic percussion workshop sessions, two singing rehearsals and various team building activities for the choristers. We also did two hikes in the gorgeous nature of Orillia. The hike in Scout Valley the first day was short but very pleasant. At the lookout point, we had a breathtaking view of the dripping fall colors. The next day we hiked the full trail of the Geneva Park and took in boundless beauty of its lakeshore and woodlands. It also gave the children lots of physical exercises as they ran tirelessly on the leaf-covered paths, and stopped to play at every playground on the way.  

The Nai children sing everywhere they go. The second day just before the lunch, Nai kids performed a new song they were working on for the hardworking kitchen and office staff, to whom we are immensely thankful. Not only did they sing at the Geneva Park, they drummed too. Adham and Esmaeel's percussion circles were a huge success. Kids love it - even the 3-4 year olds! And we discovered some great passion and talents in our group for the Arabic percussion art.

When it's dark we sang and danced around the campfire big time. Esmaeel directed the youth's improvised theatre skits. Parents chatted with each other in Arabic softly, while young children stared at the fire mesmerized. The air was filled with an aroma of the burning firewood mixed with the sweet smell of roasted marshmallows. The warm breeze from Lake Couchiching carried our children's singing and laughters to every corner of the resort. No one wanted the evening to end, and the next day, no one wanted to leave this place.

We are truly lucky to be able to hold a leadership camp like this one. The weather was glorious both days and the YMCA staff were extremely warm and helpful. There were diverse groups stayed in the resort this weekend and lots of friendly interactions were happening between different groups - a great opportunity to let our children experience diversity and inclusion from other angles. What a perfect way to nurture youth leadership and promote integration.

We want to thank YMCA Geneva Park for hosting and heavily subsidizing this camp. This was the second time that YMCA Geneva Park hosted our overnight camps. Last year they subsidized our music retreat in September which was also a memorable event. We thank Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada for funding the Artegration Programs that enabled this trip.

Fei Tang