Ella Gervais helps a young camper hop on her horse. /photo submitted

Spirit of volunteerism high amongst local youth

By Christine Carr

The spirit of volunteerism is high amongst many of Haliburton County’s youth, and that is especially true for 14-year old Ella Gervais. Ella, who is currently entering her grade 10 year at HHSS, spends her summers giving back to the community that raised her. She has spent the last two summers volunteering her time at South Algonquin Camp located at Winding River Equine, helping a new generation develop a love of horses. 

Spending her days helping kids at the camp, Ella has already far surpassed the forty hours of community service required for graduation. Earning approximately 105 volunteer hours before her first day of Grade 9, this year she is volunteering even more hours and will far surpass that number.

“I chose to volunteer here because I love working with horses and helping others develop their riding and horsemanship skills. It also comes with many learning opportunities and a chance to get out of the house. As a bonus, many of my friends volunteer/work here,” Ella said about why she chose to volunteer at the camp.

South Algonquin Camp offers summer day camps for kids interested in learning more about horses.  It has a number of youth that volunteer, ensuring that campers have a great time and develop their own love for horses. 

Teri Lindsay, the owner of the camp, described what the program is like for campers. 

“Everything they do all day is horse related. They come in, if they’ve never had any interaction with horses before we start right at the very beginning…teaching them all the horse care stuff. Every day they get to ride twice. A lot of what the leaders do is making sure the kids stay safe around the animals,” she said. 

The volunteer leaders such as Ella were all once campers that completed the program, proving their worth and knowledge as young learners. “To have the leaders out in the rings able to…make sure that they stay safe out there is really essential. It means the kids get to do a lot more,” Lindsay said. 

Ella, who has Type 1 diabetes, never lets that slow her down. “Despite the medical challenges that she has, she doesn’t let that slow her down. A lot of kids would take that and go, ‘Oh, I can’t do that’ she is like, ‘yeah, whatever, let me carry on’…she has lots of reasons she could use as excuses to not do things and she doesn’t,” said Lindsay. 

Lindsay described how she has seen Ella grow and change over the course of her time volunteering with the camp as her leadership skills have improved. 

“She is so enthusiastic. She is always willing to help. She is one of those kids who looks ahead and sees what needs to be done…she is one of the best, most organized kids I have. Her attention to detail and making sure things get done correctly is really amazing to me, even more this year than last year. She has really come a long way…” Lindsay said. 

Catherine Andress, Ella’s mother, described how Ella has improved her skills over her time volunteering. “She has certainly learned many skills through her two summers of volunteering–things about organization and managing people, and, of course, horses. I especially love watching the confidence that grows from this”. 

Volunteerism is high in Haliburton County, and today’s youth are no exception. Ella, along with her friends, looks forward to continuing to volunteer at and participate in programs at Winding River Equine all year long. 

As one of a number of local youth volunteering at South Algonquin Camp, Ella is proof that today’s youth are doing great things. To learn more about the day camp visit Winding River Equine at www.southalgonquincamp.ca.