Holland College Blog

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Holland College students and their instructors build cabins for children’s camp

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A judicious mix of theory and hands-on training is the cornerstone of all of Holland College’s programs. Not surprisingly, the theory is seen as a necessary evil by some students. The real thrill is getting their hands on the tools of their chosen trade and applying what they’ve learned to real life situations. This year, students in the college’s Carpentry program get the opportunity to experience the real world of a carpenter while helping children in the region escape the reality of their worlds for a little while.

One of the teams of Carpentry students and the cabin they are working on.

The 36 students and their three instructors are building six cabins for Camp Triumph, a camp for children whose lives have been affected by chronic illness.  The cabins are being built at the college’s Aerospace Centre in Summerside, and will then be shipped to the camp, which sits on a piece of land leased to the camp by the provincial government next to Cabot Beach.

Camp Triumph offers children from families dealing with chronic illness a respite from the stresses and responsibilities of their day-to-day lives. A registered charity, the camp provides a comprehensive program for siblings and children of the chronically ill or disabled. The summer program helps children develop coping strategies, and provides them with the opportunity to participate in an adventure-based camp where self-esteem and confidence are nurtured as they form friendships with children facing similar challenges in their homes.

Another of the three carpentry teams in front of the cottage they are building.

Carpentry instructor Ryan Rogerson, who had discussed the possibility of helping out with the camp’s executive director, Katherine Sheriko, for a couple of years, was delighted when she approached him to say they were ready to go ahead with the project.

“This year she was able to get the money for the supplies together, so we sat down and drew up plans for a bunkhouse-style cabin with room for 12 children and counsellor’s quarters,” he explained.

The students are extremely enthusiastic about the project, Ryan said.

“They’re here first thing in the morning checking the staging to make sure it’s secure and getting ready to put in a full day on their cabin. Working in teams of 12, each has two cabins to complete. Although safety is always first, the students are still competitive; keeping an eye on how the other teams are doing, and making sure they’re not lagging behind.”

(L-R) Carpentry instructors Ryan Rogerson, Donnie Brown, and Elmer McDougall

Only two teams of students can work on the cabins on any given week, one class or another is always in the classroom with instructor Elmer McDougall. Elmer teaches the students about the materials used in construction and about safety. The students also spend time in the workshop practising the skills they need to complete these cabins.

For example, the third instructor of the program, Donnie Brown, assigns them a baseboard project. It entails putting together a series of mitred baseboards into a rectangular structure. It’s designed to show them how to use the saw in every possible angle required when mitring corners. Anyone who has tried to put up baseboard or crown moulding probably knows the frustration of cutting a piece only to discover the mitre is going the wrong way!

So by the time the students began framing the buildings, they had already practised the required skills.

It’s a great way for the students to get a sense of what it’s like to be out in the work world, and it’s not just about carpentry skills. This kind of work involves being outdoors in all kinds of weather, and getting used to doing even the simplest of tasks with several layers of clothing on is no mean feat.

Every week, a different student on each team is assigned the role of Supervisor for the week, and consequently learns about the roles and responsibilities of each member of a team.  The students are responsible for making sure that no tools are left outside at lunch time or at the end of the day, and often meet with their team members to plan the next day’s activity.

It’s not only the Carpentry students involved in the project, though. Students and instructors from the Electrical Technology program are wiring the buildings, all of which must be inspected and up to code. When the time comes, students from the Wood Manufacturing – Cabinetmaking program will move in to do the millwork and build the bunks.

“We are very grateful to Holland College for their support and we are impressed with the professionalism the instructors exemplify for their students.  It is our hope that we will secure funding for the next phase of the camp, specifically, the building of a lodge which would provide an indoor space for programming during inclement weather,” Camp Triumph’s executive director Katherine Sheriko said.

For the instructors, the cabin project is a perfect way to develop the students’ skills. For the students, the project gets them out into the real world working on a real building that has a particular purpose. For the children of Camp Triumph, the buildings will be the places where they will forge memories that will sustain them throughout the challenges of their day-to-day lives.

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Written by Sara Underwood

December 4, 2009 at 12:29 pm

Posted in Staff, Students

One Response

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  1. […] volunteer their time and skills for a worthwhile cause or something a little more ambitious, like building cottages for a children’s camp, if there’s a way for us to help, we gladly do […]


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