When we arrived, we set up our campsite and immediately felt immersed in the rich and beautiful culture of the area. The whole place was filled with cedar smoke from the central fire. Children ran by speaking in Kwak̓wala, dancing and telling traditional stories.
It was an honour to be welcomed into the community by the Chief and Elders. Lots of people from all over BC had come to Alert Bay for June Sports and the atmosphere was full of anticipation.
On day one, both of our teams played their first set of matches. We didn’t win at all, but that didn’t dampen our spirits. When the youth weren’t on the field, they were eating delicious snacks, cheering on their friends and simply sitting in awe of the beautiful nature around them.
On day two, each team played again and, unfortunately, both lost again. Nevertheless, we were having such a great time that we decided to head to the beach. Despite the water being freezing cold, many of the youth jumped off the dock and went for a quick swim.
Afterwards, we returned to the soccer field for a final co-ed game including all the staff, youth and volunteers. That game really showed what soccer is all about. You don’t need fancy equipment, or to be super athletic. You don’t have to worry about mental health or addictions. And things like gender, race, or financial stability don’t matter. Just show up, join in, and kick a ball around to have some fun.
One of our female youth, Angela, had a particularly amazing time. She mentioned to me that this trip had so many “firsts” for her. She had never gone camping, had never seen a whale and never saw a bald eagle before. And in this trip alone, she not only camped the outdoors but even pitched her own tent. She saw a total of 10 eagles. And she even saw a whole pod of orcas! The entire experience filled her with so much joy.
Before we knew it, the weekend was over and it was time to pack up and head home. Both of our teams won the Miss Congeniality Award for Best Sportsmanship! Not surprising, since we had a couple of bad losses but still walked away smiling!
Altogether, the trip was absolutely amazing. It was such a privilege to travel with these youth and to give them such a life-changing experience.