Since 2007, Carl Eastman has been part of the ministry staff with Youth Unlimited YFC Hanover — a faith-based organization that meets vulnerable youth (ages 8-19) in the Hanover community in southwestern Grey County, Ont. As a gifted mentor and coach, his enthusiasm and passion for the youth he works with is evident.
Carl has been attending Muskoka Woods through the Muskoka Woods Youth Foundation (MWYF) with some amazing kids from his community for the past few years. We caught up with him to ask about the experience.
Why was it important to you to bring Youth Unlimited YFC Hanover kids to summer camp at Muskoka Woods?
Being able to take 20 youths to Muskoka Woods for free is a huge opportunity for us. Not only is it one of the stand-outs of our ministry year for our students, but it is an incredible opportunity for us as leaders. When we run camps for ourselves, we can only be half present with our youth as we need to run the camp. When we go to Muskoka Woods, we get to be 100% present with them, spending the whole time building on our relationships with them, giving us more opportunities to speak life into their lives. Lastly, the demographic of youth we work with would never normally be able to afford an opportunity like Muskoka Woods summer camp. For them, it is an experience of a lifetime.
How did summer camp, in your experience, benefit the kids from Youth Unlimited YFC Hanover?
The biggest benefit is the deeper relationship between the leaders and students. That deeper relationship gives us more influence to boldly speak into their lives to affect positive change, helping them launch into adulthood and make personal decisions about their faith.
Can you recall a success story or special moment from your week at camp?
Two of the boys we brought were several years older than the rest of the group — the other boys were really looking at them and modelling their behaviour after them. During the first day, they were not setting a good example for the rest of the group, not participating and showing a lack of gratitude for opportunities. I pulled them aside and pointed out how their actions were influencing others in the group and challenged them to step up as young leaders; lead the group, be excited, encouraging and supportive. Let me tell you, they stepped up big time! I was so impressed and proud of these boys — they led the way to an awesome week!
As a youth group leader, what was your favourite part of the Muskoka Woods summer camp experience?
There was this really cool moment where I was talking with a random Muskoka Woods staff member in the lunch line, telling them we were in Timbergrove Lodge, where we were from, and that I was able to send two students to Muskoka Woods through MWYF in 2021 when Timbergrove wasn’t running. Since those students were with us this year, I turned around and pointed them out and when she locked eyes with one of these students they were both super excited, embraced each other and started catching up like no time had passed. What are the chances that those same staff were their counsellors last year? Such a cool moment.
In your opinion, why should people give to the Muskoka Woods Youth Foundation?
There are two reasons:
The first is that most of the students we bring have never been to a summer camp. In 2022, all but two of our students had never had a summer camp experience before. Summer camps have a way of shaping youth for years to come so this is such a huge opportunity for them.
The second reason is the opportunities we get to build leadership skills and experiences in the youth that come to camp. Because we don’t have to plan and prepare the camp activities, we have more opportunities to walk alongside our youth and call them up when these occasions present themselves.
Your gifts change the course of lives for young people who attend Summer Camp. The investment you make not only creates new opportunities and possibilities for them, but will echo through generations as they return home and influence their friends and family. Give today.