The Camp Bowen Training and Recreation Centre

Introduction

Imagine a world where you can wake up, cook breakfast, check social media, and take a bus to work. Your work is something you can take pride in and provides an income for you and your family. At the end of the work day, you can text your friend and meet up for coffee. Afterwards, you can walk home, serve your family dinner, and put on some music while you clean the house. Finally, you can read a book before going to bed.

These normal, everyday tasks are often inaccessible to legally blind and Deafblind Canadians, especially those who have recently experienced vision loss. The problem is not blindness or Deafblindness but the lack of training. Given the appropriate training, there is no reason that blind and Deafblind individuals cannot reach full independence.

The Problem

Canadians who are blind or Deafblind do not receive an adequate amount of independent living skills training. As a result, many Canadians who are blind or Deafblind lack training in areas key to an independent life. This affects economic, social, and other areas of daily life.

Independent living skills training includes, but is not limited to the following areas:

  • Basic and advance assistive technology
  • Orientation and mobility (independent white cane travel)
  • Job skills and resume building
  • Cooking
  • Home management
  • Health and wellness
  • Braille

Although some of these skills are taught in part or in full in public school settings, many high school graduates who are blind or Deafblind are not prepared to live independently. Those who lose their vision later in life have an even harder time obtaining these skills.

The Solution

The Camp Bowen Training and Recreation Centre project’s goal is to create a facility on Bowen Island to house a nine month live-in independent living skills program for blind and Deafblind Canadians from across the country. It would also serve as the base for an in-home support program for program alumni. For the remaining three months of the year, the centre would become the home of Camp Bowen’s child, youth, and adult camps, with vacancies being filled by other disability and Bowen Island community groups.

Why A Live-In Program?

The current model of in-home training, offered by other organizations, is not economically sustainable and is not conducive to a high quality of service, as trainers and resources are spread too thin to be effective. For instance, valuable trainer time is often lost in travel. Furthermore, because Canadian communities are so spread out, it can be difficult to impossible to offer a sufficient level of instruction in every community.

A live-in program, on the other hand, would provide long-term quality instruction to those seeking to become more independent. This would give all Canadians who are blind or Deafblind an equal opportunity to learn valuable life skills that they can take back to their home communities. Another benefit of bringing blind and Deafblind people together for training is that it provides opportunities for peer support. The live-in independent living skills training model has proven effective on a national level in the United States.

Why Bowen Island?

Bowen Island is a small community that is located near West Vancouver. It has the benefits of a small town and the advantages of a big city being nearby. Bowen Island itself is an ideal location because of its quiet streets, which are particularly suited to independent travel instruction, and friendly locals who are used to blind and Deafblind people from years of camps being run on the island. It is only a short ferry ride away from West Vancouver, where there are opportunities for teaching more advanced orientation and mobility training, such as mall travel, crossing a variety of intersection types, and public transit.

The Steps

  • Engage with our fellow members of the blind and Deafblind community from both inside and outside the organization to facilitate input on the vision for an independent living skills training centre in Canada open to blind and Deafblind individuals from across the country.
  • Form partnerships with like-minded organizations
  • Hold public consultations with the local community to see how the integration of an independent living skills training centre could be of maximum community benefit
  • Create a capital project endowment fund, where 80% of funds are allocated to capital costs and 20% remain invested to fund the centre’s operations
  • Aquire land
  • Create a facility designed to meet the needs of an independent living skills training centre, either through acquisition and renovation or through new construction
  • Select a team of trainers able to teach independent living skills
  • Send any trainers who don’t already have it to complete their NOMC certification

The Benefits

Benefits to Bowen Island

Benefits include but are not limited to:

Creating job opportunities
In addition to creating jobs for blind and Deafblind Canadians, a training and recreation centre for the blind and Deafblind would create jobs for Bowen Islanders. These jobs include but are not limited to administrative staff, kitchen staff, and groundskeepers. Sighted trainers could also be hired from Bowen Island if they go through the appropriate training under blindfold.
Providing volunteers for the community
As part of job skills training, students will be expected to complete volunteer hours, meaning this will be a rich source of volunteers for community events and endeavours.
Spending money at local businesses
Students will spend money at not only the restaurants and stores favoured by tourists but also at businesses catering to longer term residents, such as hairdressers, gyms, and grocery stores.
Respectful residents
Students are not tourists here to party for a weekend. Because they will be staying on Bowen Island from six to nine months, they will be integrated into the community more fully than a tourist could and will treat the island with respect. We have already scene the respectful attitude towards the island demonstrated by campers who return to Bowen Island year after year.
A strict covenant
The Camp Bowen Society for the Independence of the Blind and Deafblind is willing to enter into a strict covenant registered against the centre’s title to ensure the community of Bowen Island is respected into the future.
Minimal traffic
Since students and campers will be blind and staff will mostly be either blind or local, there will be need for minimal vehicles congesting the roads and ferry. All parking will be on the centre’s property and roadside parking will be prohibited to ensure roads remain clear.
Buying local
The Camp Bowen Society for the Independence of the Blind and Deafblind will source supplies and services for the centre from local businesses and individuals where possible.

Benefits to the Blind and Deafblind

Benefits include but are not limited to:

Training
Canadians who are blind and Deafblind from across the country would have a facility at which to receive quality independent living skills training.
Summer camps
The Camp Bowen Society for the Independence of the Blind and Deafblind would have assurance that it could continue offering summer camps for blind and Deafblind children, youth and adults at the facility and reduce its costs therein.
Networking opportunities
The centre would be a place for groups of blind and Deafblind people to come together, share resources, and build support networks.
Employment
The centre would provide employment opportunities to blind and Deafblind individuals. These jobs include but are not limited to trainers, administrators, kitchen staff, groundskeepers, and leadership positions.

Social Responsibility

As an organization, we recognize that working in a small community brings with it a certain set of responsibilities to the community we call home. At Camp Bowen, we strive to develop strong ties with our fellow community members and give back as much as possible to those around us. This starts with figuring out, through community consultation, how a project like the Camp Bowen Training and Recreation Centre can bring maximum local benefits and continues by maintaining open dialog with the community on how to improve in this regard. We also have a responsibility to keep our fellow members of the blind and Deafblind community involved at every level of the centre’s operations, from appointments to the board of directors to ensuring participants receive maximum benefits from the project and everything in between. Here, too, open dialog is key.

Conclusion

By providing independent living skills training, we can build a world where every blind and Deafblind individual can live with dignity and freedom.

Let’s Build it Together

There are several ways you can help us make the Camp Bowen Training and Recreation centre a reality. Whether you can contribute financially, have a suggestion on how we can improve on our vision, or know of another way you can help, contact us and we can begin building the centre today, one step at a time.

Partners

Working together makes the whole community stronger. To discuss partnership opportunities, please reach out.

Financial Contributions

In order to fund the centre, we are establishing a capital project endowment fund, where 80% of funds are allocated to capital costs (E.G. land acquisition and construction/renovations) and 20% remain invested to fund the centre’s operations. The first stage, known as “Phase 0”, requires us to raise twenty-five thousand dollars out of the proposed centre budget of 10 million dollars to provide the initial funds that will be placed into the endowment fund.

In order to donate to the Camp Bowen Training and Recreation Centre project, go here and select the Camp Bowen Training and Recreation Centre Project Fund. Every penny helps!