Love + Teamwork = Lives Changed
by Yao Dan Cao and Tabitha Peiris
The Lighthouse was very busy this past summer, especially in hosting our three summer camps: the Chinese children’s summer camp, the Hispanic family camp and the Vietnamese family camp. Each summer camp is unique with respect to the community it serves, how it is run and its key goals. Although each camp is distinctive from the others, the three camps often share in their philosophies, strategies and resources. For example, while the art therapy program was initially introduced as a sort of pilot project for the Hispanic family summer camp, for the first time this year, due to the success of art therapy in identifying and addressing certain emotional and social difficulties, the Vietnamese family camp augmented its programming by hosting an art therapy workshop. All three camps also share the holistic philosophy of The Lighthouse in the planning and implementation of their programs, that is to say, the programs seek to resolve underlying problems experienced by camp participants by addressing not only their more immediate physical needs but also their social, emotional and spiritual needs.
For this newsletter, we’ve interviewed a selection of our volunteers and participants to share with you their observations and experiences in how The Lighthouse’s summer camps have impacted the lives of their participants, including themselves. We had the pleasure of interviewing Tracy, a long-time volunteer of the Vietnamese family camp, Maira, a participant in the Hispanic camp, and Anita, a volunteer of the Chinese camp. Here is what they had to say
- How did you come into contact with The Lighthouse?
Tracy – I was asked by a friend to help out with the Lighthouse in 2011. They needed someone to do arts and crafts with the kids, so they asked me to do it, and I volunteered. So I’ve been helping at the Lighthouse with Tabitha [Tabitha Peiris, summer student and regular volunteer] and Tracy [Tracy Dang, Vietnamese Administrative Assistant] whenever they asked me to.
Maira – A long time ago, fifteen years ago, my friend invited me to one of The Lighthouse’s Christmas parties, and that’s where I first met Samia [Samia Saad, Hispanic Counsellor and Program Coordinator].
Anita – I came into contact with The Lighthouse through Rita Wong [Chinese Counsellor and Program Coordinator], whom I got to know when I was seconded to her church. (I was seconded to Toronto Chinese Alliance Church on 1st Avenue while working with Child Evangelism Fellowship). I was reaching out to the unreached children in that Chinatown area.
- How has The Lighthouse assisted you? (If applicable)
Maira – The Lighthouse has helped me a lot. I came to Canada from Guatemala with my whole family, knowing no English at all, and it was very hard back then. One day, I was given deportation notice of 48 hours back to Guatemala, but Samia helped through it. I have now been in Canada for 25 years, and am a Canadian citizen. Another time, my apartment was on fire back in 2000, and The Lighthouse and Samia helped me a lot. I have also finished the manicure class, am currently part of the make-up class, and hope to take the haircut class in the future. I also come to the food bank once in a while. I’ve received very good help from The Lighthouse.
Anita – The Lighthouse had assisted me in filing my income tax returns. Rita helped me out for a few years until I could find someone else to help.
- What impact do you think The Lighthouse has had on the children and families who attended the Summer Camps?
Tracy – I feel like this gives children and their parents a chance to have fun together and bond. I understand that parents might be too busy for their children, which can result in the kids filling in that emptiness with friends. With The Lighthouse events, I feel like the parents don’t have to keep up a barrier of being an adult, but get to enjoy and laugh with their children. They can show kids more about themselves and build a connection.
Anita – I think the Children Summer Camp held in Scarborough area (Calvary Logos Baptist Church) is a great help to families who cannot afford to pay too high a fee for children camp elsewhere. I was involved from last year and could see the positive changes in a number of children’s character and behavior, especially for those who accepted Jesus as their Savior and Lord. This change was seen during the camp and one year after that. And for this year, most volunteers saw such changes during the camp as well. It is quite amazing. I am sure, through the children, the parents are also more open to bringing their children for other church programs such as Sunday school, etc.
- What is your favourite aspect about volunteering or participating at this year’s Summer Camp?
Tracy – I really enjoyed watching the families work together for the art therapy. I always think that family is important, so to see kids and their parents laughing brings me joy. I never got that chance with my parents since they were always busy working; so I feel that things like these will stick with the children even when they get older.
Maira – I’ve never had experience working with children aged 4-6 before, and it was a beautiful experience. I also got to experience working with the Art Therapists, and learned a lot from them. My daughter also learned a lot – she expanded her skills in the arts, and is not afraid of making new friends anymore.
Anita – My favorite aspect about volunteering at this year’s Summer Camp is to counsel and pray with the children to accept the Lord Jesus into their hearts. This is done with much explanation on who Jesus is, what Jesus did for them, and why. It’s so precious to see them confessing their sins to Jesus with sincerity. It’s my joy to see the children feeling so happy when they knew that Jesus’ blood could cleanse their sins and made their hearts clean again. God is good!
- What is something that stood out to you during camp/what was your favorite aspect of camp?
Tracy – This year, I’ve learned to understand the kids a little bit more. I know that there were a few rowdy kids, but I understood that they act like they do because they want to be noticed or given attention to. When I helped one of the kids with their craft because they got frustrated, they turned very timid instead of their usual outgoing self. I felt like some of the more outgoing kids were lonelier and wanted to be accepted by their peers.
Maida – Todo. I had a very good time. What I loved about it is that it wasn’t just Samia’s camp, or The Lighthouse’s camp – it was everyone’s project. Everyone did an excellent job with so many responsibilities. The food was also very good.
- What is one thing you would tell others about The Lighthouse / its summer camps?
Tracy – [regarding summer camps] It’s a wonderful experience, whether you’re a parent, kid, or volunteer. You learn to connect to others and help make a difference in someone’s life or see something different in your own life. It may not be the most extravagant thing in the world, but it still touches you in a way.
Anita – [regarding summer camps] I would say that the spiritual support given to families is more effective and long lasting, because follow-up activities are conducted to maintain the relationship with “clients.” Also, usually the focus is just not on the adults or the children, but the whole family. I must say, what I know and experience is largely confined within my involvement in the Chinese community.
Maida – [regarding The Lighthouse] Es un centro que ayuda bastante a las personas, especialmente a los recién llegados. Tambien nos da una buena orientacion a donde encontrar ayuda. Tambien es un lugar muy confidencial. (It is a centre that offers great help, especially to new immigrants. It also points us in a good direction to where we can find help. It’s also a very safe and confidential place.)