Nanaimo students and community benefit from Leaders in Training program

Hannah McNabb's life has been enriched with three years in Nanaimo Parks Recreation and Culture's Leaders in Training and Quest program.

Hannah McNabb’s life has been enriched with three years in Nanaimo Parks Recreation and Culture’s Leaders in Training program.

The program has run for 31 years and allows teenagers like McNabb to volunteer in the community.

The Grade 9 student said working with children with special needs was something that was enjoyable this past summer.

“I did a special needs camp called Camp Sunsation and that was a lot of fun,” McNabb said. “I loved that camp. It was just so nice to work with them and the leaders were great there … I also worked at (Footholds Therapy Centre), which was another special needs camp, and that was also great.”

McNabb said watching the campers have trust in her and working with them was gratifying. The experience she gained was invaluable.

“The leaders were awesome because they were trained in this and I learned so much from them. I was able to ask them, ‘What happens when this happens?’ and they said, ‘You can just do it like this,’ and I got to see how they work and how they play and how they interact with people. It was just very nice and very touching,” she said.

For the very first time, there were volunteer opportunities with seniors and it was something McNabb enjoyed as well, as she helped serve coffee, tea and cinnamon buns at a party for seniors.

“They’re just so sweet, I love them,” she said of the seniors. “One of them was an Olympic swimmer and she would dance and do little arm motions like she was swimming and I (said), ‘That’s so cool,” and they were like, ‘Well yeah, she was an Olympian,’ and I was like, ‘Wow!’ They’re very lively and nice to chat with and they know a lot, so you can ask them about anything and they’ll know it, so they were cool to work with.”

While she can volunteer with the Leaders in Training program again next summer, McNabb is looking to take the next step.

“I’m also eligible to be in the Junior Summer Leader program and that’s where pretty much we’re working at the camps but because we’re only juniors, we only get two weeks at a time at each camp and the year after that, when I turn 16, I can work full time at one camp,” said McNabb. “I can do the (Leaders in Training program) again but I want to try and apply for the Junior Summer Leader.”

Megan Lum, recreation co-ordinator, said the program has evolved over the past 31 years to afford people like McNabb more opportunities.

“Now they do workshops throughout the summer in addition to their basic training. We’ve done Toastmasters with them, we did some workshops with Foodshare this year around making nutritious, healthy lunches, first aid and we’ve done Foodsafe in the past – just trying to the equip them with more skills so that once they’re done with our program, they don’t only have skills around working with children or camps but they can go out into the community and apply for a job at McDonalds and Chapters or Shoppers Drug Mart and have something to offer because they’ve worked as part of a team and have a little bit of that experience,” Lum said.