Evangelina grew up in small communities in northern British Columbia and the Northwest Territories. Home schooled and raised in a family where media was heavily censored, they didn’t know queer people existed for most of their childhood.
At the age of 18 they moved to Nanaimo, giving them access to transit for the first time and allowing them to explore other world perspectives including the queer community. Soon after moving, Evangelina came across something that changed the course of their life: a poster calling for applications to CampOUT!
Based out of UBC’s Faculty of Education, CampOUT! is a summer camp for queer, trans, Two-Spirit, questioning and allied youth from across BC and the Yukon. Since 2009, more than 900 campers have attended CampOUT! on Chá7elkwnech (Gambier Island), where they develop leadership skills, build self-esteem and explore resources for health and well-being.
After seeing the poster, Evangelina applied to CampOUT! and attended for the first time in 2019. They describe camp as a life-changing experience.
“Going to camp allowed me to see the diversity, strength and beauty of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, and I started on the road to self-acceptance and self-love,” says Evangelina. “Before going to CampOUT! I had never been in a space that was so community-filled and so safe.”
CampOUT! is offered at no cost to campers, which is only possible thanks to generous support from donors. On Giving Day last year, donors, alumni and friends came together to raise more than $30,000 to support CampOUT!
“The funds raised on Giving Day were equivalent to supporting 13 campers to attend CampOUT!” says Lisa Loutzenheiser, Associate Professor at UBC and Academic Director of CampOUT!
“There’s so much that goes into camp, including in-depth cabin leader training, parent day and staff who bring camp to life. Funding is needed for all of this, and we truly wouldn’t be able to offer this amazing camp experience without support from donors.”
Evangelina remembers going to camp feeling a lot of fear and uncertainty around their future and left with the revelation that many other queer people had been through a similar journey and became happy and authentic community members, giving them hope for the future.
Since their first experience at camp, Evangelina has returned two more times as a cabin leader. Camp has brought them many close friendships and influenced their career—Evangelina now works at a harm reduction clinic, a job they pursued thanks to their inspiring camp experience and with support from the camp community.
“If camp wasn’t free, I never would have been able to go and my life would look very different,” says Evangelina. “Everyone who donates to CampOUT! has such a huge impact on people like me—and on many communities—because we take what we learn at camp and bring those lessons back home with us. I have such immense gratitude for everyone who supports CampOUT!”