“Why did I ever agree to come here?” This was my last thought before my mother dropped me off at Camp Aurora for a four-day journey of self-discovery. What I thought would be the last few days of my precious summer wasted, turned out to be the best four days of my life. I’m still confused as to how or why a group of 30 youth, most of whom had never met, became so close in such a short period of time. It could be that we ate, played and slept together, and spent 72 consecutive hours in each other’s company. But there were a few more important factors that made this a life-changing experience.
Camp Aurora is an adult-facilitated and peer-run summer camp for LGBTT and allied youth. The Winnipeg, Manitoba based camp, modeled after Edmonton’s Camp fYyrefly, had its first successful run this summer. Throughout camp, our self-decorated “warm fuzzy” (mail) boxes served as an icebreaker, a way to say what was on your mind and get to know each other. We could send each other positive feedback, kind words, even notes of secret admiration. It became the Facebook of Camp Aurora, and was the breeding ground for some of my most treasured friendships.
An equally important activity was the “Post-secrets” project. Inspired by the popular Frank Warren books of the same title, campers could craft postcards of their secrets, to be posted throughout the lodge. It became a game in itself trying to hunt for newest secrets, some of which were amusing while others were very serious. That everyone was comfortable enough to post these secrets, even if they were anonymous, said a lot about the amount of trust and support we had for one another.
The various workshops were also an invaluable part of the camp experience. Whether it was getting in touch with your “inner” belly dancer, artist, or wall climber, there was plenty to do and learn. Some of the workshops were intense and emotional, and others just for fun, but they were all very enlightening and all helped me get in touch with parts of myself I had never known before.
Camp redefined who I am as both a person and gay youth. More importantly, it redefined my outlook on “gays.” It’s true that there is discrimination within our own community, and I was no exception. Before camp, I had observed a lifestyle of sex, drugs and techno, filled with plenty of gossip and drama in the “bar scene.” But at camp, without these crutches/influences, I was able to meet a variety of people and learned so much that I had never known before. Each one of us is an honest, friendly, wonderful person, each with our own amazing stories, and together, we make a community I can now be proud of and hold in high regard.
Camp Aurora 2007 was truly a life altering experience, and I plan to experience it all over again this year. My application for the 2008 season is already signed, sealed and delivered. Now, the countdown begins until I hear clanging pots for the 8am wakeup call of “you are my sunshine, my only sunshine,” at Camp Aurora 2008.
August 25th to 29th, 2008