A path towards reconciliation

February 12, 2020 | Focus on Camps | Volume 24 Issue 4
Geralde Reesor-Grooters | Willowgrove
Willowgrove added the blanket exercise to its program in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, more specifically the call to educate Canadians. (Willowgrove photo)

“Now I know what I should have been teaching.”

These are the words of a retired history teacher after participating in a Kairos blanket exercise. As a blanket exercise facilitator, I am often struck by the insights of participants, adults and children alike. 

Three years ago, Willowgrove added the blanket exercise to its program in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, more specifically to the call to educate Canadians. With thousands of visitors every year at Willowgrove Day Camp, Fraser Lake Camp, outdoor education and facility rentals, Willowgrove is in a unique position to answer this call.

I love the experiential nature of the blanket exercise. Participants take on the role of the Indigenous peoples, standing on blankets representing the land of Turtle Island. The history of the Indigenous peoples unfolds around them, reflected by blankets and participants being moved or taken away. This powerful activity is always concluded with a talking circle to share thoughts and reflections, and to process emotions.

To provide a natural setting for the experience, it was our goal to host the blanket exercise onsite at Willowgrove rather than visiting school gyms and conference rooms. When the intended building proved too small, Willowgrove received an Ontario Trillium Fund grant to further develop the blanket exercise program and construct a suitable building. We hope to start construction this spring.

As the outreach coordinator for the Willowgrove blanket exercise project, I look after the communication, educational and marketing aspects of this project. My overall focus is to make sure this project happens in a good and respectful way. I am very thankful to receive guidance through partnerships with local Indigenous communities, organizations and individuals. It is an honour to walk this path together.

Working on this has been very rewarding and it has inspired me to find more ways to incorporate reconciliation into Willowgrove’s programs. 

Read more from our Focus on Camps:
Lighting a fire in children's faith
Living sanctuaries
Jeremy Wiens goes to Snow Camp
'Hi, let's go join the rest of the group'
Assiniboia, Koinonia: Similar but different
Rhythm and Song Camp breaks into rap

Willowgrove added the blanket exercise to its program in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, more specifically the call to educate Canadians. (Willowgrove photo)

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