Despite challenges including a fire ban and a staffing shortage, Mennonite Church B.C.’s Camp Squeah enjoyed a successful summer, according to camp director Rob Tiessen.
“We were thankful for the summer season as it was,” Tiessen says. “It was a good turnout in terms of lots of campers, but we had to limit numbers because of being short-staffed.”
The province’s wildfire season and fire ban meant that propane rings replaced the campfire at the camp’s nightly “chapel in the sky.” On overnight excursions, campers prepared their food on camp stoves instead of an open fire.
A high smoke index on Aug. 20 forced Squeah staff to postpone the start of the final week of camp by one day.
Thiessen praises camp staffers, who worked hard over the summer. “They were asked to carry a lot and were rightfully exhausted,” he says. “I felt like they worked well [and] finishing strong with energy and gas in the tank.”
Thiessen was encouraged by the 14 people who participated in the servant leadership training program and in behind-the-scenes maintenance projects during the summer.
With the end of the summer camping season, Squeah shifts to fall and winter rentals by churches and community groups.
On Sept. 23, the camp will hold its annual paddle-a-thon down the Fraser River to raise funds to support volunteer leaders with their post-secondary education costs.
“Quality staff have cited their financial crises as not being able to come [work at camp],” Tiessen says. “It’s an ongoing challenge for a lot of camps. Many camps in the B.C. Camping Association pay all their staff. We’re looking at that [model] more closely and carefully. But if we pay staff, operating fees will go up, and the bottom line is to have campers come where finances are not an obstacle.”
Tiessen hopes that this past summer’s curriculum theme of “King Arthur and the Holy Grail” will stick with the young people who came to Squeah.
“People are seeking a grail but often seeking their own idea of a grail,” Tiessen says. “For some it might be sports or popularity, but the grail comes in Christ, though it may not look as attractive. We got some great comments and the theme resonated with children and parents alike.”