February 7, 2013

Thanking about Abby, six months later

By Jacob Rodenburg

It has been more than 6 months since Abby passed away in a tragic accident.  Here a few words to honour her memory.

For those of us who work at Camp Kawartha, we know camp to be a warm, nurturing place – a safe place where kids are encouraged to explore nature, to try new things and to develop new outdoor skills.  In a way the camp represents a bubble, an enclave – a protective shell from the craziness of the outside world.  We found that protective coating was severely shaken when we heard that one of our close staff members Abby MacNaughton passed away so suddenly this past summer.  We tried to make sense of this.  How could someone so young, spontaneous, vibrant and joyful be taken away so abruptly?  The senselessness of it all was overpowering.  For a time, this was all we could think about.

But when we shared stories about Abby – as we did around a remembrance fire – or during spare moments in between programming – we realized something tremendously important.  Abby, even though she wasn't with us for a great length of time – taught each one of us something meaningful.

For example; no matter what the weather, no matter what challenges were hurled her way, no matter what mood others were in, she always had a warm presence and a backpack full of enthusiasm.  Her smile could lighten up even the crankiest among us.  Here are some words our summer camp staff used to describe Abby: inspirational, dedicated, passionate, a wonderful teacher, a great advocate for nature, a warm and friendly person to be around.  Campers who had Abby or “Quatzy” as she was called in the summer, just loved her classes.  She was unfailingly energizing.  She had a knack for making things relevant for children, for finding the wonderful in the ordinary, for inspiring kids to see the natural world with new and fresh eyes.

What we came to understand and perhaps this is something we can only fully realize when someone we care about is no longer with us, is that Abby’s presence here with us was and will always be a gift.  The many things she taught us are her gifts as well.  These are the kind of gifts that work best when they are carried forward.  And it is our task to pass them along. The gift of joyfulness - of finding something positive even when the grind of day to day living overwhelms us - of sharing our joy of nature and teaching this to others -of being curious and allowing time to follow that curiosity, just to see where it takes us.  Of spending time with children and exploring with them outside and playing and imagining with them - of giving ourselves and others, permission to be amazed by beauty, by the unexpected and by the mysteries of this remarkable world.  And of course the gift of adventure – of pushing our own boundaries so we can discover the world in new ways.

Thank you Abby for all of these things and more.  It has been a privilege to know you, to share time with you and to learn from your warm and energizing presence.  We pledge to teach kids to love the natural world, to protect it and to care for each other.  We promise to try to find joy even in the smallest of things and to pass this on.  Yours was life well and truly lived.  

Abby's Garden

February 4, 2013

Preventing Homesickness

by Jacob Rodenburg

Summer time!  What child doesn’t look forward to the sultry days of July and August, free from school and full of possibility?  Summer might mean a visit to the cottage, staying over at a friend’s or being at summer camp.  For children, summer is a wonderful time to foster a sense of independence, to embark on new adventures and to develop new skills.

At the same time, being away from home can mean an unwelcome dose of homesickness!  Nausea, headache, mood swings, crying and irritability, lethargy, lack of motivation…these are just some of the symptoms associated with homesickness.  Likely all of us have felt this way at one time or another when we were growing up.  And, as parents, we want to do what we can to protect our children from feeling this way.

There is an upside to homesickness.  Researchers believe that it is caused by a temporary absence from a happy, stable home.  So if our children exhibit signs of homesickness, it means they feel loved, accepted and nurtured.  Parents should understand that homesickness is a natural and expected phase of childhood development.

On the other hand, we want our children to experience new challenges in a positive and healthy way.  We know it is our role as parents to foster independence and autonomy.

The good news is that in many instances, homesickness can either be prevented or minimized.  And we can start acting now to help our children cope with summer camp, an overnight visit to a friend’s or a trip away from home.

Here are a few simple preventative measures: