When you’re looking for one thing, and you find belonging

Christine Arnold Quote

We often say that whether in our 12 neighbourhood Clubs or at Camp Potlatch, our most important deliverable is belonging. Today’s alumni story highlights that from a Camp Potlatch alumnus’ perspective. What youth volunteers don’t realize (and, well, let’s keep it our little secret) is that for BGC, our role with them doesn’t change because they’re volunteers – we are meant to be role models, sounding boards, advisors and mentors to them as they learn to apply all of the lessons they’ve learned in school, at home and in the world, under our positive, strengths based guidance. It is, in fact, that positive, strengths based approach (rooted in seeing, hearing and accepting each kid for who they are, and not clouded or defined by where they’ve come from or what they’ve experienced), that ultimately results in that deep sense of belonging we all crave.

Christine is yet another alumnus we’re so proud to profile as evidence that #BGCMatters. Read her story below.

If this also resonates with you because you are Camp Potlatch alum, and/or are a fan of the Camp world, you can follow Christine’s mantra to “pay it forward” by clicking here to send a kid to Camp Potlatch this summer!

I was in grade 9 in the spring of 2000 and I was looking for something meaningful to do that upcoming summer. I came from a very low income household and summers were always a dreaded, seemingly interminable stretch of time without the stimulus of school and the distraction of all of its affordable extracurricular activities in which I voraciously engaged. I went to school in a well-to-do neighbourhood and I looked in from the outside as my friends filled their summers travelling abroad, playing organized sports, taking art and science classes, and going to camp. In contrast, I filled my summers working my way through the Vancouver Public Library and running laps around the local track. As the end of grade 9 approached, I was determined that that summer would be different.

I came across an advertisement for Camp Potlatch, but did not think much of it until I found out that the older brother of a friend of mine worked there and he encouraged me to apply to volunteer as a Leader-in-Training (LIT). I had no real idea what Camp Potlatch was about, I had never done any wilderness camping, and I had never been away from home for more than a week, but when I was asked during my interview which weeks I wanted to volunteer at Camp, I jumped on-board for the entire summer. Happily, it turned out that I had made the best decision of my fifteen-year-old life.

Camp Potlatch immediately became the first place where I felt like I really belonged. I was treated kindly and with respect by adults and by my peers, and my aptitudes and hard work were valued. I learned many valuable lessons that have stood me in very good stead ever since. For example, at the end of the training week at the beginning of that first summer, a staff member with a paid position in the kitchen quit. I was asked if I wanted to fill the position, and that is how I got my first formal job. I was told that I had been offered the position because of my good work ethic and positive attitude, and it was on the strength of those attributes that I was hired back every summer through the rest of high school in increasingly senior positions. My experience at Camp Potlatch during those formative years was a critical factor in instilling in me, a kid from a poor, uneducated, and troubled home, the confidence to be ambitious and to believe that I was in control of attaining lofty goals. Today I am 31 years old and Corporate Counsel for one of Canada’s largest and most diversified privately held companies. The characteristics that led me to achieve this goal are fundamentally the same ones that were fostered and reinforced at Camp Potlatch.

My involvement with Camp Potlatch led to so many amazing opportunities. I got to participate in an exchange trip with the Boys and Girls Clubs in the UK when I was in grade 11, which opened the door to a lifelong love of travel. I was twice awarded a valuable scholarship sponsored by the Boys and Girls Clubs, which went a long way in supporting my post-secondary education. There is no doubt that the generous references that my bosses and mentors at Camp Potlatch provided for me played a significant role in my successful application for other scholarships that I very much needed to complete my studies. Most importantly, Camp Potlatch and the Boys and Girls Clubs propelled me onto the humbling and rewarding path of community service and volunteerism.

Camp Potlatch came into my life when I needed it most, for which I will be forever grateful. The legacy of what Camp Potlatch meant to me lives in me in the form of knowing what it is to feel safe, to belong, and to be valued, in lifelong friends, and in the confidence to run after big dreams, the biggest one of which now is to pay it all forward.

Christine Arnold, Corporate Counsel at Ledcor, BGC Alumni