The Elizabeth Fry Society has expanded its summer camps to Surrey for children whose parents are involved with the justice system.

Marginalized kids get a chance at summer fun

Free camps offered for children who have a parent in prison.

by Dennis Page

For most kids it is taken for granted that summer is a time of carefree fun – filled with trips to parks and pools and hanging out with friends.

But for children who have a parent in prison, the summer months when there’s no school can be a long, lonely time – often accompanied with poverty and depression.

The Elizabeth Fry Society has been operating camps for these kids in Vancouver for the past two years and has now expanded the program to serve children and families in Surrey. The society offers week-long free summer camps for six- to nine-year-olds who have a family member involved in the justice system.

“Children of prisoners have very difficult lives, and when you’re poor, you self-limit yourself and you don’t gain the confidence to try new things,” said Shawn Bayes, executive director of the Elizabeth Fry Society

One of the activities that the kids are exposed to is a trip to the Hotel Vancouver, where they are encouraged to talk to the hotel staff and have high tea. Such outings, Bayes says, help build confidence.

Some of the other activities include trips to Playland and community pools, karate lessons, learning arts and crafts, and playing games that encourage the youngsters to interact with one another and make friends.

“We ask the kids to tell us what their favourite thing about the camps is, and they always tell us, ‘I’ve made my first friend’, ” said Bayes, adding for children in this situation, living a normal life can be difficult as many feel embarrassed or ashamed and are reluctant to talk and develop important social skills.

According to the Elizabeth Fry Society, the related statistics are worrisome. On average, 2,100 kids in the Lower Mainland have a parent who is incarcerated. About half of those young people end up in prison themselves.

“The feedback we are getting from parents and caregivers is that they are telling us that the kids are making friends for the first time, have increased confidence and self-esteem and that they are happier,” said Bayes.

Bayes also explains that Canada is the only Commonwealth country that does not recognize children of prisoners as being a marginalized group and needing assistance. There is no government funding in place to help these kids, and grants that were once available for children living in poverty to attend summer camps have been removed.

Despite the lack of government support, the summer camps are free and include meals and bus passes.

JustKids also offers the Saturday Club during the school year, which helps the kids to stay connected with the friends they make at camp.

JustKids, a division of the Elizabeth Fry Society, is now accepting registrations for the Surrey camps, which run 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Aug. 7-10 and Aug. 13-17. To register, call 604-520-1166. To make a donation or for more information, visit www.just-kids.ca

Surrey North Delta Leader

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Guildford’s Winter Festival raises nearly $7K for Surrey Memorial Hospital

Funds raised through two weekends of skate rentals, on-site donations

Woman in Fraser Health region confirmed as sixth COVID-19 case in B.C.

Woman remains in isolation as Fraser Health officials investigate

Court awards Surrey Costco shopping cart collector $583K after car pins him

Kurtis Ryan Burdeniuk, 22, was retrieving carts when driver backed into him in the parking lot, pinning him

Royal Canadian circus coming back to Cloverdale

June dates for rebranded circus in year of expansion into U.S.

Committee that replaced Surrey’s Public Safety Committee seven months ago has never met

Surrey mayor dissolved safety committee in July 2019, replaced it with Interim Police Transition Advisory Committee

Blair says RCMP have met Wet’suwet’en conditions, calls for end to blockades

The Wet’suwet’en’s hereditary chiefs oppose the Coastal GasLink project

Woman missing out of downtown Maple Ridge

Police seek public’s help locating Atefeh Jadidian

Petition seeks to remove local police department from Lindsay Buziak murder case

American woman starts online petition in hopes of helping Buziak family

Health officials confirm sixth COVID-19 case in B.C.

Woman remains in isolation as Fraser Health officials investigate

Study says flu vaccine protected most people during unusual influenza season

Test-negative method was pioneered by the BC Centre for Disease Control in 2004

Saskatchewan and B.C. reach championship round at Scotties

British Columbia’s Corryn Brown locked up the last berth in Pool B

‘Chain reaction pile up’ closes southbound traffic on Coquihalla Highway

Black Press Media has reached out to RCMP, paramedics for details

Exploding enrolment prompts opening of second TWU campus in Richmond

Langley’s faith-based Trinity Western University opens a second campus in Richmond

Fraser Valley seniors’ home residents go without meds for a night due to staff shortage

Residents speak out about staff shortages that are leading to serious safety concerns

Most Read