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Building Careers and Confidence at Camp Courage

Whether it is the determination to enter a burning building or the bravery to ask someone for help with a personal challenge, courage is an essential characteristic for anyone working in the tri-services. Courage is an important word, in particular, for Techsploration role model Andrea Speranza, Operations Captain at the Halifax Regional Fire Service. In January 2006, she founded Camp Courage with the First Responder Society, an eight day camp focused on introducing 24 young women aged 15-19 to careers as first responders (primarily paramedics, police officers, and firefighters).


The number of women in the tri-services trades is just under 7%, an incredibly low number for a career that Andrea describes as the ‘best-kept secret’. According to Andrea, Camp Courage aims to foster a larger, more informed, and better prepared female applicant pool for emergency services, while also developing a more diverse emergency response workforce.


“It’s an incredible career. Unfortunately women often lack the confidence or a clear understanding of the profession to go into emergency response services, which is why we try to relate the girls’ preferred interests and hobbies to a career in the tri-services,” says Andrea.


The ultimate goal of Camp Courage is for young women to leave the camp with a sense of empowerment and the confidence to believe that they can achieve any goal, career or dream they desire. We remove the word can’t from our campers’ vocabulary,” notes Andrea.


Andrea grew up across the street from a volunteer fire station, which provided her first glimpse at what a career as a firefighter would be like. She was welcomed at an early age, invited to slide in the foam during training drills, given a pop when she’d stop by for a visit, and even trusted with the keys to lock-up the building after the volunteers left for a call. While those experiences at a young age certainly influenced Andrea, it was her innate desire to help people that drove her to become a firefighter.


While all campers are not necessarily destined for careers in emergency services, many of them are. A glance at Camp Courage’s online Wall of Fame highlights campers that have gone on to careers in one or more of the tri-services or related fields. The Wall is just one piece of evidence of the impact the camp has on its participants. Take Kelsey, for example, a camper from the 2007 camp who became the first professional female firefighter in Sydney, Nova Scotia in 2012!


“It’s an indescribable feeling to first work with a camper as a mentor, and then a few years down the road, end up working alongside them in the field,” says Andrea.


The camp relies on over 100 volunteers to help lead the initiative. While the camp is only eight days, it provides participants with a supportive network for life as a number of volunteers regularly help the girls with everything from studying for entrance tests to interviews for jobs in emergency services. While there is no cost to attend the camp, to ensure all young women have access to the opportunity, there is an entrance essay requirement to be accepted.


Do you know a young woman who would like to participate in Camp Courage (taking place July 9th -“ 16th, 2017)? Applications are accepted until March 31st! Learn more at: https://campcourage.ca/.