By the age of four, transgender youth Marissa Taylor was already having suicidal thoughts. ‘I want to die so I can go to heaven and talk to God. I need to tell him he put me in the wrong body,’, she said. But at 22, she discovered her salvation: Camp fYrefly
Youth like Marissa will be able to experience for the first time in Ontario a life-changing — and life-saving — arts-based summer camp when Camp fYrefly comes July 13 to 16 to Trent University in Peterborough.
It’s a four-day residential retreat for sexual and gender minority youth — lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans-identified, two-spirited, intersexed, queer, questioning – and allied youth aged 14 to 24.
It’s also the only one of its kind in Canada and is designed to help youth develop leadership skills and personal resiliency. It aims to empower them to know their rights, address bullying, harassment, and hate crimes, and be agents for positive social change in their schools, families, faith groups, and communities, says it website.
“Kids who have struggled with bullying, fear, depression,isolation and shame are able to find their identity and be themselves without judgement,” it continues.
More than 1,250 youth have attended Camp fYryfly since its launch in 2004 in Edmonton by two educators in the Faculty of Education, University of Alberta. There are summer camps also in Calgary, Regina, Saskatoon, and now Peterborough — the first time it has been hosted in Ontario.
The camp will include an artist-in-residence and an Indigenous elder-in-residence. Dance, drama, music, writing, visual art, empowerment and reflection exercises, and mental health and anti-oppression workshops are some of the over 25 activities offered in a safe and supportive environment.
- Dr. Spencer Harrison
The director of the camp is Dr. Spencer Harrison, a Peterborough native and Trent graduate who teaches art at OCAD University in Toronto. He has managed to fund-raise $80,000 which will cover most of the cost for the 60 expected campers. Each camper will pay $25
The fYrefly acronym stands for: fostering, Youth, resiliency, energy, fun, leadership, yeah! The Peterborough camp is a partnership between the Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services at the University of Alberta and Trent’s School of Education and Professional Learning.
Applications will be available online on the camp’s website (www.fyrefly.ualberta.ca/Ontario) starting March 6 and will close May 3 .
Donations can also be made at the website.