Lenaya Sampson is a “Sparrow Guide” for Fireside Adventures. (Fireside Adventures image)

Indigenous teens learn empowerment through camp

“It’s really amazing to realize that you aren’t alone in this world so to have an all girl trip and to have empowerment with your peers is really special”

A young Nlaka’pamux woman who grew up in Vernon is giving back to the community through a women’s empowerment camp this summer.

Lenaya Sampson, 22, recently completed her bachelor’s degree at UBC and returned home to Vernon to lead an outdoor expedition with Indigenous high school girls from the Vernon School District. Through Fireside Adventures, Sampson will be sharing her culture and traditions with the girls attending the camp. She will also be teaching them wilderness and leadership skills.

“Having programs for Indigenous youth is a necessity because we have a different set of needs,” she said. “It’s nice for Indigenous youth to be together and to have the support of people who could potentially be going through the same circumstances and experiences.”

Sampson said that this was the exact reason she got involved with the program when she was a teen. She explained that her aunt encouraged her to attend a camp, insisting it was a “once in a lifetime opportunity”, assuring her that she would excel.

“I was a very ‘type A’ camper and I loved it and kept wanting to go back because I couldn’t get enough of it.”

When Sampson took the course, she said there was not yet an Indigenous-focused program but is pleased Fireside is now offering it. She expressed how excited she was to lead this experience with teenagers from her own hometown.

“For the girls attending, it will be an incredible opportunity. Speaking from experience, I was in a very bad place when my aunt called me and by going to the Fireside courses, I was able to find a positive self-identity and I was able to figure out that I am capable of leading myself and leading others and able to lead a healthy life.”

After interviewing students aged 13-17 from various high schools including Seaton, Fulton and Kalamalka Secondary Schools, a group of 10 was chosen to partake in the three-week course. The group is travelling throughout southern B.C., including visiting Hope, Galiano Island, the Sunshine Coast, Gambier Island and Vancouver in an effort to teach leadership skills and aid the girls in connecting with their culture.

“Through the trip, they will be able to connect with various Indigenous groups of the territory that they are in so that’s pretty special,” she said.

The group began their jouney earlier this month.

“It’s just really amazing to realize that you aren’t alone in this world so to have an all girl trip and to have empowerment with your peers is really special.”

Related: Okanagan Indian Band hosts red dress event in Vernon today

Related: Okanagan Indian Band celebrates National Indigenous Day

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