~By Jane Wilson, Special to The Northern View
Seventeen-year-old Stefan Robinson was one of six youth from Kitkatla attending the Enhanced Training Session (ETS) held by the Junior Canadian Rangers (JCR) in Vernon Aug. 8-19.
Stefan said it was his fifth time attending the summer program and his first time attending as a mentor for the younger Junior Rangers.
“Going to ETS is always the best part of my summer,” said Stefan, “and being a mentor was an amazing experience.”
The mentors act as first level supervisors for the JCR attending Basic ETS, said Captain Scott Macdonald, Officer Commanding of the JCR programme, which is an initiative of the Canadian Armed Forces providing a structured youth programme promoting outdoor and traditional skills in remote and isolated communities across Canada.
“In doing so, the team of two JCR Mentors in each section act as the role models, manage the daily routine, supervise training activities, and get to know the 13 JCRs in their section. Throughout the ETS, the JCR Mentor gets to know their section members very well, thereby understanding their needs and being able to assist when they are having difficulties,” said Capt. Macdonald.
As a mentor, Stefan joined the younger JCRs in repelling, mountain biking, canoeing, and stand-up paddle boarding, he said, but what he enjoyed most was getting to know the other JCRs, “the best part was getting to know everyone else, making new friends, people who comfort you when you’re far away from home”.
Among the other activities the youth participated in was the Pay It Forward campaign, which has the young JCRs performing tasks for not-for-profit organizations that could use their help.
“The Pay it Forward program is our way achieving a few different aims,” said Capt. Macdonald, who said the program is geared to both instill an interest in community volunteerism in the youth, as well as, to say thank you to the community of Vernon for hosting the JCRs for three weeks.
The youth volunteered in a number of capacities for local organizations, including several outdoor projects and a mission in support of the homeless. Capt. Macdonald said he was particularly excited to have the youth working with the North Okanogan Gleaners, an organization which takes extra vegetables from the communities of southern B.C. and processes it into dried soup mix for distribution to the Third World.
During the event last year the JCRs volunteered at the Armstrong Spallumcheen Museum and Art Gallery, helping with painting projects and moving a pump organ up several flights of stairs, said museum administrator Sherrie MacFarlane,
“They really did a lot of stuff we wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise. When we found out they were coming back, we were elated,” said MacFarlane
Stefan’s group helped out at the Allan Brooks Nature Centre in Vernon, helping with weeding invasive plant species for the non-profit habitat protection and education organization. He said he enjoyed the work and thinks it’s great that the kids are learning about the value of volunteering.
“I can’t wait to come back and be a mentor again next year,” he said.