New Immersion Camp at Lake Joe

This summer, 8 French-speaking youngsters from Quebec between the ages of 13 and 17 had an unforgettable experience at the new immersion camp organized by CNIB Quebec.
“When we realized that CNIB offered this opportunity to learn English at an immersion camp near Toronto, with well-structured activities and friends who are also blind, and even accompaniment on the airplane, we jumped at the opportunity,” said the father of Benjamin and Samuel. He had no hesitation about spending 4 hours on the road to take them to Montreal airport so they could attend the camp.
Located in Muskoka, in Ontario cottage country, CNIB’s Lake Joseph Centre welcomed Rosalie, Samuel, Benjamin, Éliane, Odélie, Joé, and two Antoines, along with English-speaking campers. All week, they had opportunities to improve their language skills in English classes and outdoor and group activities. "The classes helped me a lot. I learned how to ask for help in English and people understand me better," said Samuel, who gained self-confidence. "At first I had trouble making myself understood, but after a while, I was able to speak English and I even made an English friend,” added his older brother Benjamin. Now that the camp is over, he plans to keep in touch with his friend via social media.
By spending time away from home and having the responsibilities of camp life, the youngsters developed their independence and living skills. For example, as the week went by, Éliane became more independent and able to perform routine tasks like pouring a glass of water and getting around without a guide.

All week long, the children were active – swimming, dying t-shirts, tubing, sailing – always pushing their limits while having fun! Every morning, they worked on an activity of their choice that they could improve all week. Benjamin and Odélie chose waterskiing, Éliane learned to identify trees, and Samuel, Joé and Rosalie chose music and theatre. During an evening recital, Éliane played her own composition on the piano and sang with Rosalie. Their moving performance earned them enthusiastic applause from the spectators.

Since 1956, “Lake Joe” has provided recreation and vision rehabilitation at summer camps for children, adults and families in specially designed facilities. This was a unique opportunity for children with vision loss to discover another part of Canada and to experience new activities in an accessible environment. “I was surprised how accessible everything was,” observed one of the 2 Antoines. “Signs in braille and large type were posted all around the buildings where our rooms were. Every facilitator was totally at ease with our visual disability; they made sure that we were guided, explained every activity in detail and described most of the events going on around us."

Many of the youngsters have already expressed an interest in attending the camp next year!