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The Ten Oaks Project is a charitable organization that creates spaces in which 2SLGBTQ+ children, youth, and families can thrive. The Ten Oaks Project has been running since 2004 and offers youth and young adult camps and other programs locally that are guided by their Core Values: empowerment through play, learning by doing, social justice, collaboration and innovation, and people.

The Ten Oaks Project’s new Executive Director, Lux, discussed the important work that they and their team at the Ten Oaks Project do, including hosting overnight camps and facilitating discussions on queer family-making practices. Lux said that they are most excited “to get to know the huge community that makes Ten Oaks Project possible. The young people who help create the magic of camps, and their caregivers who trust us to create a welcoming, affirming, and fun experience; all of the volunteers who support operations, fundraising, and community engagement; the caregivers and prospective parents who seek support and knowledge through us; the mighty staff team, especially this year’s camp crew, who represent Ten Oaks proudly; the funders and donors who champion our work; and the aray of 2SLGBTQIA+ organizations and businesses that advocate for systems change.”

While overnight camps have been on hiatus for the past couple of years due to COVID-19 restrictions, they are set to return in 2022. “Last year we ran day camps, which was a lot of fun,” said Lux, “but there is something about overnight camps that cannot be recreated in day camps. Young people experience a deeper sense of community, of belonging, when we all go out on the land together to play, learn, and rest.” 

The Ten Oaks team is excited to be able to offer a full range of in-person programming again this summer and Lux shared that they are very excited to be able to provide these opportunities again and that the Ten Oaks team is committed to a practice of learning and unlearning even when uncomfortable to be able to offer programming that helps youth to feel represented and supported in all aspects of the Ten Oaks Projects’ programming.

Lux highlighted the benefits of one of their overnight camp offerings, Camp Lifting Leaves. First offered in 2018, Camp Lifting Leaves is for young people aged 12 and older with an active file with an Indigenous and/or child welfare agency and who either identify as 2SLGBTQIA+ or come from 2SLGBTQIA+ communities. Similar to Camp Ten Oaks (another overnight camp the Ten Oaks Project offers), Camp Lifting Leaves is unique in that it allows participants to invite a chaperone to attend camp with them. Lux notes that this is an important feature because it allows young participants “to feel safe and connect their learning and experience back to where they live.” 

Registrations for the 2022 season at Camp Lifting Leaves and Camp Ten Oaks are open now. Prospective campers can look forward to outdoor adventures such as hiking, canoeing, swimming, and participating in the Oak-A-Lympics, alongside social justice programming that provides campers with the tools they need to engage with issues that regularly impact their lives such as sexism, homophobia, and transphobia. One of Lux’s goals for Camp Lifting Leaves is to “bring land-based teachings and ceremonies to camp in a respectful way.” Camp Lifting Leaves is also one of the Ten Oaks Project’s ways of connecting with the land and working in ways that are respectful of Indigenous peoples, culture and history. This camp enables Indigenous youth from 2SLGBTQIA+ identities and communities to have a safe space to connect in a way that allows them to also connect to where they live.

The Ten Oaks Project also hosts a discussion group called Shaping Parenthood on the fourth Wednesday of every month, from 7-9 pm. Lux describes the group as being “for 2SLGBTQIA+ communities in Ottawa to explore and reflect on the queering of family-making and child-raising.” By bringing in folks with lived and/or professional experience on various topics related to queer families and children, the Ten Oaks Project’s goal with Shaping Parenthood is “to provide connection to resources and support the group’s reflection.” Shaping Parenthood has offered discussions on topics such as adoption, getting pregnant, surrogacy and more to help 2SLGBTQIA+ folks navigate parenthood in Ottawa.

Families in Transition (FIT) is another important initiative offered by the Ten Oaks Project in partnership with Central Toronto Youth Services. Providing information, communication strategies, and general support, “FIT is open to caregivers who are new to supporting their child’s gender identity or expression,” explains Lux. While a drop-in youth group is available to those 12 and up, caregivers are invited to attend either with or without their child. Applications are open to sign up and applicants will be contacted once the new session begins.

Want to get involved with the Ten Oaks Project?

Lux is excited to get to know you, and “the huge community that makes the Ten Oaks Project possible.” Ways to get involved with the Ten Oaks Project include joining their Board of Directors or their Ottawa Community Engagement Committee. As a board member, volunteers have the opportunity to direct and support the Ten Oaks Project’s committees. As a member of the Ottawa Community Engagement Committee, volunteers “make all of our community events a reality, from Pride Picnic to FUNdraisers,” said Lux. The Ten Oaks Project also recognizes that volunteering often requires the privilege of resources to perform free labour. In order to make their volunteer opportunities as accessible as possible, they are pleased to be able to offer some support for transportation and childcare. Volunteer recruitment for Camp Lifting Leaves starts in August, so please keep an eye on social media: facebook + Instagram for more details about that, other volunteering opportunities and upcoming programming!