Director’s Update – April 7, 2020

Dear Wabun Family,

We talk often at camp about how a life in a Wabun section is a journey from “me” to “we”. We realize that in the wilderness, individual success does not exist outside of group success. Collaboration and cooperation are essential to group achievement. We learn that it is equally important to feel as comfortable asking for help as offering it. Working as a team, tempering competitiveness with compassion, and understanding that we are responsible for and to one another results in a connectedness that forges lifelong friendships and an intrinsic understanding of what it takes for a group, and each of its members, to thrive. Wabun is a family, a “we” made up of each and every one of us  – campers, staff, alumni, parents, and friends. I have been profoundly moved, overjoyed, strengthened, and humbled by the stories, notes, phone calls, offers to help, and words of encouragement you have shared. I have loved seeing pictures of section Zooms, hearing about campers baking bannock, and learning about ways our Wabun family is helping one another in this time of challenge. Supporting each other during times of difficulty deepens our capacity to celebrate collective achievement – and when we are next able to be together, my goodness what a celebration we will have!

And when might it be that we are next able to be together? We are working hard to answer that question. I want to thank you for your patience. I have put off getting this letter out to you. Each time I sat down to write I thought, “I’ll hold off – I’ll know more tomorrow, or after the Ontario Camps Association meeting, or after the Timiskaming Health Unit update…” But it has been two weeks since I last wrote. And I have little new information. So what will I do here? Share what we are doing. Sarah, Julie, the Wabun crew and I are working so hard to keep the possibility of a Wabun summer alive. We are not alone in this work – here is some info on the process, people, and policies that have been involved. 

Currently, the land borders between Canada and the United States are closed to visitors and non-essential workers. Jonathan, our immigration consultant, is working extremely hard to ensure that camp counselors (Wabun staff) entering the country will be grouped with childcare workers and listed as essential personnel, thus exempted from the ban. Right now the travel restrictions are tentatively slated to be lifted for campers in late June. Through Jonathan, and another dear Wabun friend and former Ontario government worker, Wabun has information coming to us from the Ministry of Immigration and Canada Border Services Agency. Dick is in touch with our district’s Minister of Parliament, Anthony Rota, regarding upcoming legislation on distancing guidelines and group gathering restrictions. I am in communication with Renee from the Timiskaming Health Unit – she is fantastic and very aware of the unique creature that is the canoe tripping camp and what our challenges may be. Renee works closely with provincial and federal health officials. Wabun receives multiple weekly emails from the Municipality of Temagami and we are in regular communication with the Temagami First Nation regarding guidelines and governance of native lands. I attend weekly COVID -19 meetings with both the Ontario Camps Association (OCA) and the Association of Youth Camps on Temagami Lakes (AYCTL) – an organization that includes Wabun, Keewaydin, Northwaters, Wanapetei, Camp Temagami, CAC, and Wabikon – these people are our good friends and we are in the same boat (ha!).

I want you to know that every single representative mentioned from every organization listed above believes deeply in the importance (perhaps now more than at any time any of us can recall) of getting young people out on trip and into the rhythms of nature supported by people who care about them. We are collaborating like we never have before and are doing everything we can think of to create plans A, B, C….. X,Y,Z. We will continue in our efforts so long as there remains hope of camps opening this summer. That said, our highest priority is the health and well being of our campers, staff, and community. If the representatives and organizations mentioned above deem opening camp an unreasonable risk – we will not open. If the travel ban extends beyond our scheduled start date, we will consider an abbreviated season. 

What does this mean for campers, staff, and families? Well, it means that Wabun, like much of the rest of the world, is in a holding pattern. How the cards will fall over the next several weeks will dramatically affect summer plans. It feels awful to put you all in the very difficult position of wait-and-see, but that is where we are. At this point, given the unpredictability of the travel ban end date, and how it might affect camper and staff entry dates and isolation requirements, I encourage you to hold off on booking flight tickets. I understand that now is definitely not the optimal time to book doctor’s appointments to complete camp medical forms – please take that off of your list of concerns! Over the coming weeks Sarah, Julie, the Wabun crew and I will be digging deeper into what an abbreviated season could look like including changes in tuition and travel logistics. 

We are dedicated to exploring all available options to provide your children time at Wabun this summer. I have heard from so many of you that the prospect of a summer at camp is a spark of hope in the lives of your children and I want you to know we are working so hard to keep that prospect alive. I will update you over the coming weeks as soon as I have news to share, specifics on what an abbreviated program might look like, and probably even if I don’t have news or updates, just because I like you and being in contact with you is helping me find meaning and connection in the midst of all of this!

I am so grateful for this Wabun family. I imagine you all out there weathering this storm alone, but together. I hope that during this time of challenge you have been able to draw upon your experiences as a camper, staff, your own time in the wilderness, or your time spent listening to hours of Wabun stories from your loved one! It gives me great hope to reflect on what I have seen in each camper  and to know that their strength, their collaborative capabilities, their perseverance, their grit, their humor, and their ability to “have fun doing hard stuff” is serving them right now. These qualities are in each of us. We are exercising them now. Alone and together. You are helping Wabun get through this. Thank you. Take good care, my friends. I will reach out again soon. 


Jessica Lewis
Managing Director/Camp Coordinator