Youth leaders have their campers in formation as they prepare for another day at the Vietnamese Eucharistic Youth Movement camp in Paris, Ont. Photo by Vincent Pham

Making a new start at summer camp

By  Vincent Pham, Youth Speak News
  • July 22, 2019

Maria Pham has been going to summer camp with St. Thomas Thiện’s chapter of the Vietnamese Eucharistic Youth Movement for 11 years, but she couldn’t help feeling a little like a rookie this year.

For the first time since she was nine years old, she was no longer a camp attendee but a huynh trưởng, or youth leader. 

Pham said it’s exciting to be on the other side because she is able to relate to what the young people feel. 

“I first went camping when I was in Grade 4 and that was in 2008 — that was our Galilee II and now it is Galilee XII,” Pham, 20, recalled. “This is my first time as (youth leader). … I just had the realization I’m the behind-the-scenes person. I’m the one who’s planning all the games and making sure everyone is where they are and making sure they are having fun, learning as much as they can.” 

Members of the St. Thomas Thiện chapter in Toronto held their annual summer camp June 28-30 at Five Oaks Education and Retreat Centre in Paris, Ont. During camp, youth from eight to 17 years old develop both their spiritual and physical abilities through liturgy, games and team-building activities. 

“I really felt united as community at camp, as we would perform skits based on stories of the Bible and compete with each other and it really made me grow closer to people as well as to God,” said Pham. “That’s why I still come back today to deliver the same goals to the youth that attend camp.”

The camp is a culmination of the VEYM’s program which also runs during the academic year. It is a chance for the youth to reinforce the knowledge and skills that they have acquired during the year, putting them into practice. 

Joseph Long Nguyen, 19, was another newly minted youth leader at this camp. 

“I found the first few months (as a youth leader) quite eye-opening. I truly thought I was well prepared for what was to come, but I never really did appreciate what was going on in the background,” Nguyen remarked. “The role of the youth leader within the EYM is to act as a bridge from Jesus to the youth.” 

Youth leaders started planning for the camp in January, taking on a role within different sub-committees to cover the various aspects of camp, such as technical, medical and liturgy.

“A lot of the young kids this year, it’s their first time so we want to make it as memorable as we can for them so that they can come back every year, and they can enjoy themselves and allow them to see that camp is such an essential part of our youth group,” said Nguyen. 

The VEYM St. Thomas Thiện chapter celebrated its 10th anniversary last year. Since its establishment in 2008, the chapter has hosted the annual summer camp, sometimes partnering with other VEYM chapters. 

“VEYM has given me an opportunity to really understand and grow to the role of a leader, especially in a Catholic setting,” said Nguyen.

 “Being a person who went to an all-boys school, there wasn’t many roles I could get from there, so this was really helpful for me to become a better person and to have a better lead role, especially in the Vietnamese community.” 

Danny Luong, president of the Toronto chapter and deputy director of this year’s camp, was happy with the progress of the new youth leaders within the chapter. 

“It is an amazing spirit and an amazing journey for the youth,” said Luong. “For any youth group, not just VEYM, it all starts with the youth and youth groups are all about the youth. That is the type of future we want: for kids to build their faith on the youth, with strong, wise members in the core.”

(Pham, 18, is a graduate of Chaminade College School in Toronto.)

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