Matt, Canada

My Lattitude placement in Canada is at Kamp Kiwanis, which is located approximately 30km west of Calgary in Alberta. Kamp Kiwanis has three seasons; spring and fall that involves the same program, and summer which is different.

During spring and fall, school groups come for 3-4 days and participate in environmental education programs that enhance their learning at school. We also facilitate a program known as Connections, which is aimed at Grade 10s to 12s and is an environmental, multicultural and leadership program.  My role during these programs is a Volunteer Outdoor Program Leader, which enables me to teach activities to students ranging from environmental activities to archery or capture the flag. I also make sure they are safe and having lots of fun! My favourite part of spring/fall is archery and campfire!

The summer program is a fun-filled and a magical place for children to grow and enjoy the outdoors with friendly staff and peers. The summer program has been run here since 1951, and every child that attends is 100% subsidised by the Kiwanis Club of Calgary and camp donors.  Summer camp is offered for children aged 9-12. Kamp Kiwanis also runs leadership programs for high school students during summer, with some participants eventually being offered the chance to work here as a summer counsellor, or receive the training required to work at other camps.  During summer my role is as a Volunteer Kamp Counsellor, which entitles me to look after the kids, have fun with them and run a range of activities from arts and crafts to pool sessions! We also have day hikes and overnight trips in the forest.

A typical day here differs depending on the season, but we usually wake up around 7.15am and start brekky at 8am. We then have morning activities until lunch (noon) and then afternoon activities until dinner (5pm). After dinner we have some more activities and enjoy a good campfire, either outside at our fire pit or inside one of the camp buildings.

I chose to take a gap year with Lattitude for two reasons, firstly to take a break from schooling and figure out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. And I have found what I want to do, which is to pursue a career in the outdoors and work with children, and to educate others about the adventurous environment that we live in. The second reason was to give back for a greater cause. Throughout my life I have volunteered in many different aspects, mainly through the aid of scouting. With this knowledge I knew that making even a small difference by volunteering would greatly help someone in need. The Kiwanis Club of Calgary sponsors around 350 kids to come to Kamp Kiwanis every summer and enjoy an experience they may not otherwise have for financial reasons. It was great during summer to engage and have fun with kids who wouldn’t normally get the chance to have this experience, and so I feel as though I have made a positive impact on their childhood through volunteering here.

I would definitely recommend for others to volunteer through Lattitude and spend 6-8 months in Canada. This year has done a lot for me so far. It has helped me open up more as a person, to not care what other people think of me (today I danced to Taylor Swift in a dress), to be fair to others, to treat everyone with equality and to help me develop as a young adult. Most of the things I have achieved here in Canada I hadn’t dreamt of whilst at home.

Lattitude has helped me to get the most fun out of my life, and that is being in the outdoors, whether I’m teaching kids or climbing mountains. Before this year I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but this placement has given me time and space to realise what matters the most to me.  Sometimes you just have to choose something and dive straight into it, don’t hold back, just do it!