There is nothing like spending the summer by a lake, jumping into pristine waters after having spent the day bonding with new friends, and kayaking until sunset.
This summer, 25 Israeli campers personally affected by terrorism, ranging in age from 12 to 17, and their five counsellors came to Canada with the support of the One Family Fund Camp Timberlane program.
One Family Fund acts as an extended family of Israeli victims of terror attacks, providing them with financial, emotional and physical support.
The organization supports the wounded and bereaved – those who have lost loved ones or who have directly been physically or emotionally affected by terror.
Founded in 2002, One Family Fund empowers victims of terror with rehabilitative programs and support networks to rebuild their lives, one family at a time. Now in its sixth year, the Camp Timberlane program bridges the ties between Israeli and Canadian youth and their families.
This year, 17 families generously opened their Toronto-area homes for a week to Israeli campers who were treated to a three-week camp experience in northern Ontario.
Before heading off to camp, the group did some sightseeing that included a visit to Toronto landmark Casa Loma and Niagara Falls.
The participants, who were greeted by the Toronto Jewish community with affection and warmth, also enjoyed shopping trips, a bowling night, barbecues and lunches, which were donated by sponsors and families.
Overseen by One Family Fund’s signature events director Michael Rosen, the program was a great success, proving that community support can help people cope with personal issues.
Dina Sheer, an Israel-based One Family Fund staff supervisor, said that when she was presented with an opportunity to take part in the summer program, “I took it with two hands.
“It was an amazing experience to get to know more of the One Family Fund children. It is very intense, and I learned a lot from [the Israeli participants] and the Canadians [whose] kindness and warm welcome was so nice.”
One of the participants, a 17-year-old counsellor-in-training, took part in the program for the second time.
“The [Canadian] campers were happy to have us there. They wanted us to teach them Hebrew and we learned English,” she said.
“I did this [program] again because of the warm people… Everyone is amazing. It was the best summer I had in my life.”
Efi Zarbiv, an Israeli-based One Family Fund staff member who accompanied the children from Israel, also found the program to be meaningful as well.
“The kids loved the activities and meeting new people,” Zarbiv said.
“They participated in everything. It was great to see how happy they were.”
In a letter to the families who hosted the children before and after their camp experience, and to the staff involved in bringing the entire program together, One Family Fund Canada executive director Pam Albert wrote that the “amazing experience” left her speechless.
And to the Israeli participants, she wrote that they “really are cherished by your Canadian community. When I visited you at Timberlane, I left with a full heart, knowing that you were having such a great experience.”
As the summer comes to a close and the children return home, it is clear that this program is an essential part of the Jewish community both here and abroad, and provides children who have suffered through trauma to experience a carefree summer.
Kortney Shapiro is a One Family Fund volunteer.