July 19, 2021

Some things about camp make me cry with joy

A few years ago, when Prime Minster Trudeau welcomed 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada, it occurred to me that as the grand-daughter of four refugees, it was my turn to take some responsibility for the refugees of today.  So in summer 2018 we started our Syrian refugee bursary programme and welcomed 11 Syrian campers to camp.  Most are still with us, and have done so well at camp. After all, they’re just kids!

I think often of Khaled, who was an LIT  summer 2018. Khaled has had to grow up too fast to come back to camp… Fast forward to this summer. Below is an email Khaled sent me a few days ago:

Hello Joanne,

I’m not sure if you still remember but I will always remember you and my Arowhon family.

As I’m making my way home with my 8 young adult friends from a 5 day canoe trip, I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart. Thank you for introducing me to the most peaceful place on earth.

After living my beautiful country, Camp Arowhon was the first place I felt safe, included and met long lasting friends. Camp Arowhon staff and campers made me feel safe and taught me how to be happy. The trip was my favourite part, as It helped me develop my skills, personality and was very therapeutic.

I remember you telling me “we change the world one person at a time”.  My trip today was to give back to Camp Arowhon and to introduce 5 young adults that are living in shelters with their single moms and 3 refugees that arrived in the country less than a year ago to a new experience; I was hoping to have the same impact camp had on me, on the participants.

Thank you again for giving me this opportunity. You once said everyone runs to mommy once they are in trouble and I will say everyone runs to mommy because they know they will feel safe and supported. Thank you for making camp so safe and peaceful. I want you to know that we are changing the world two people at a time as you are doing your part and I’m doing my part in the city shelters.

Under are some pictures from my trip and a link of a short story you might enjoy reading.


Khaled Al Mouktaran

As a Syrian refugee, I lived in a hotel shelter for my first few months in Toronto. Now I work there



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