Training

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 blind and partially sighted Canadians, especially those who have recently experienced vision loss. Given the appropriate training, however, there is no reason that blind and partially sighted individuals cannot reach this level of independence.

The Problem

Canadians living with visual impairments do not receive an adequate amount of independent living skills training. As a result, many Canadians living with a visual impairment lack training in areas key to an independent life. This affects social, economic, 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 cane travel)
  • Job skills and resume building
  • Cooking
  • Cleaning
  • 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 visually impaired 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 residential independent living skills program. 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 and youth camps, with vacancies being filled by other groups.

Why Residential?

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 instructors and resources are spread too thin to be effective. For instance, valuable instructor 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 residential program, on the other hand, would provide long-term quality instruction to those seeking to become more independent. This would give all Canadians living with a visual impairment an equal opportunity to learn valuable life skills that they can take back to their home communities. Another benefit of bringing visually impaired people together for training is that it provides opportunities for peer support, something that people in many communities do not have the chance to experience. The residential 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 it’s quiet streets, which are particularly suited to independent travel instruction, and friendly locals who are used to blind 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 visually impaired, blind, and deaf blind community from both inside and outside the organization to facilitate input on the vision for an independent living skills training centre in Canada.
  • 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
  • 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 professionals qualified to teach independent living skills

The Benefits

  • Canadians living with visual impairments would have a facility at which to receive quality independent living skills training in either of Canada’s two official languages.
  • The centre would provide employment opportunities to local Bowen Islanders and visually impaired individuals.
  • The society would have assurance that it could continue offering summer camps at the facility and reduce its costs therein.

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 visually impaired, blind, and deaf blind 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 partially sighted 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, are a blind or partially sighted person who could take our survey to help gather statistics on the current state of independent living skills training in Canada, or know of another way you can help (contact us), we can begin building the centre today, one step at a time.