Dear Friends of Boundless:
The black flies, mosquitos, and now, those adorable deer flies, are preying upon a couple dozen Indigenous youth that you, the reader, have generously sponsored to participate in this bloodsucking paradise. Nevertheless, the kids are just nailing it up here. So grab a tea, take a load off, and let’s get caught up.
Kevin, this week’s trip leader, popped into my office this morning. He’s got two mean girls to contend with.
“They’re eye-rolly. They got up and left the intro-talk yesterday.”
“Oh oh,” I say.
“I let them go. I figured they’d come back if they had nothing to push against. And they did.”
He’s got a tough group this week. The kids have struggled to stay in school. Our Indigenous partner that referred this group is pulling out all the stops, trying to use Boundless to get them orbiting the star of their school system. But too often, the kids’ escape velocities exceed the pull of some very caring elders and teachers.
Oh my, these kids hate authority! Time and space is different with this bunch. Mainstream learning isn’t cutting it. Coming to Boundless, for many, is a Hail Mary.
Kevin adds that he smells weed in the boy’s bathroom. And that, in advance of paddling this morning, the alpha of the two mean girls is complaining of cramps.
He said to her,
“That’s okay, just sit out.”
With a compassionate chuckle, he said that she had this look of being outfoxed at the poker table. Not sure what to do with herself, she scurried off to get her river gear. She barely made the bus. But there she was, flashing a peace sign out the window as they rolled away for the day’s adventure.
Navigating teens is an exercise in martial artistry. You can’t always meet force with force. Yielding can often disable an opponent. As an organization, Boundless is having to learn this quickly, especially with Indigenous groups, who often come to us with justifiably cynical eyes.
I got a call last week from Greg, an Elder at the Native Family and Child Services of Toronto. Greg is charged with running NFCS’ summer camp and year round recreation programs. But he is much more than his job description. He has raised some NCFS kids in his own home.
Greg was bemoaning his struggles with finding, training and retaining staff for the camp. He also winced at the mounting list of standards that regulate the camping industry. That’s why he sent twenty promising teens to Boundless two weeks ago, hoping Boundless would help them along to get ready for the summer. Feel free to open the attached photos of a few of these kids if you want your daily dose of adorability.
Greg, a reader of this blog (sorry Greg), confessed to me that his staffing struggles are exhausting. He keeps a close eye on a young lad I have affectionately nicknamed Quiche (see attached photo of him in a canoe). Quiche has been to our boarding school for over a year, and should be graduating here in March 2023. Greg has tried to woo Quiche to work at the NFCS summer camp. Quiche, like a reluctant Rapunzel, won’t oblige.
“Why?”, I asked him in late April when he was up here getting his advanced wilderness first aid award.
“Because it’s not Boundless.”
Puzzled, I ask, “What’s up with that?”
He smiles uncomfortably, and goes mute. Quiche is not one to besmirch, making him all the more desirable for Greg to have him join the NCFS team.
I am keenly aware of the apparent conflict of interest that is going on. In helping Quiche, we may be undermining our partner.
Boundless has embarked on year one of a five-year plan to help Quiche – and other Inidgeous kids – to become professionally credentialed and sensitive Indigenous recreation leaders. We’ll keep him close to Boundless if he remains willing, year after year, piling on the experience and certifications. The goal is to have Indigenous people lead other Indigenous people. Whether it’s at Boundless, or at NCFS, seems irrelevant right now when compared to the ultimate prize of Quiche having a career leading others in his own community. Greg may have to wait a while for Quiche, but I suspect the young lad could run his camp one day.
Next week, the Inuit kids arrive. Across the property will be youth from Central Toronto Youth Services, a children’s mental health agency. The adventures keep coming.
By the way, the reader should note that I have not used the word Covid once in this article (until now). This feels so nice. Yet our medical advisory team tells me that hell hath no fury like the fall, when they predict Covid will be taunting us with “ready or not, here I come again.”
But for now, we enjoy every square centimetre of the fertile valley, where life longs for itself, thanks to your support.