Kaitoke Outdoor Education Center (KOEC) is nestled within the Tararua Ranges a 45-minute journey from Wellington city. Set on twenty-eight acres, it looks out over the valley. With world-renowned tramping straight out the back and offering everything from kayaking to climbing, high ropes, orienteering and archery to name a few KOEC has it all.

Since the 1930’s the YMCA has organised and ran family camps. Family Camp is a relaxing long weekend designed to bring families closer together by spending time recreating, eating delicious meals, catching up with old friends and making new ones. Mornings are spent partaking in activities like climbing, canoeing or simply lingering over a morning coffee in the sun.

There is research to suggest that the time we spend recreating and eating as a family unit is on the decline. In modern society, we all lead increasingly busy lives. Data suggests that 30% of parents don’t spend any active time with their children, however, 57% of adults would like to spend more time taking part in sport and active leisure as a family. In New Zealand, 60% of adults and 25% of children are classified as overweight. We believe that we can help change these stats by offering programmes such as Family Camp to promote healthy living and family time. The above data reflects society as a whole from lower to upper socio-economic groups. We chose to make Family Camp a completely free product meaning applicants were not chosen based off any financial credentials. Instead, Family Camp was funded entirely by YMCA Greater Wellington.

Planning of Family Camp began in June. Organising such an event presents many challenges. Jay Campbell, a senior leader at KOEC was given the task of organising the programme which entailed everything from creating application forms, collating pre/ post camp data and organising applicants. Being a Child Safe organisation every adult on site during the week had to undergo a police check. Working tirelessly to make Family Camp a success Jay developed an impressive schedule for the weekend to include campfire, BBQ, games, rock climbing and kayaking. Once applications were released it was not long until Jay’s inbox was full. As this was the first Family Camp ran by KOEC it was decided to work off a first come first served basis of applications. There was a great range of families apply from all over the Wellington region. Soon police checks were filed, pre-camp surveys filed out, waivers complete, bags packed and bodies ready for camp!

During the week leading up the weather forecast was not looking great… come Friday it had been raining all week and looked like it would not let up, however, hope was held onto. Around 5 pm the first families started to arrive and were shown to their cabins. By 6 pm everyone had arrived. Due to the rain, Jay had organised a backup evening to include family games, dinner and social time. The evening went well with everybody eating, relaxing and managing to stay dry. Saturday morning camp awoke at 8 am to bright blue skies and mid-twenties temps. Family Camp was now in full swing! After a delicious breakfast everybody headed out for activities throughout the day, in the evening a buffet was put on followed by a games evening. Sunday played out in much the same way concluding with a BBQ lunch before everybody headed off around 3 pm.

Post-camp we received some fantastic feedback from the participants. A lot of the attendees had stated their reasons for applying for Family Camp had been to spend more time as a family unit. When following up three weeks after Family Camp had finished several families had reported that they have spent more time together recreating and bonding as a family unit. Bian Jan said The YMCA Family Camp is a totally awesome experience! I am quite an indoorsy person and lots of the activities were my first time. I love it! It helps me realize that I have great potential and discover other sides of me.  It also makes the bond between me and my daughter closer, while offering you opportunities to meet and connect with new people”

YMCA Greater Wellington has recently acquired funding from The Wellington Community Trust to grow this programme in 2019. If you and your family are interested in attending a YMCA Greater Wellington Family Camp then get in touch with Jay via email at familycamp@ymcawellington.org.nz