By JENNIFER HAMILTON-MCCHARLES, The Nugget
Blair Beaucage found the answers he needed in the most unexpected place.
Now the 27-year-old wants to help kids that are struggling like he was.
Beaucage is a mentor at Niigan Mosewak – a free, week-long summer leadership camp at Spirit Point Lodge in Trout Creek for aboriginal youth from North Bay and surrounding areas across Northeastern Ontario.
He was 12 when he first attended. It was there his life started to change in a more positive direction.
“I learned a lot about myself, my community and why it was the way it was,” Beaucage said Saturday during a mentor gathering and training session at the North Bay Indian Friendship Centre.
“I was shy, scared and nervous. I had no self esteem and I looked at myself in a negative way, but by the end of the camp I wanted to come back as a mentor so I could help others,” he said.
The opportunity also helped Beaucage reconnect with his culture and language.
He said the week-long summer camp is a start to healing and understanding aboriginal issues like the effect residential schools have had on multiple generations.
The camp’s goal is to openly talk about the high drug, alcohol and suicide rates in aboriginal communities, cultures, languages and self-esteem. Campers also share ways to make positive lifestyle choices.
But this weekend was all about preparing the mentors and potential mentors for the coming camping season.
Mentors spent the day receiving training on how to deal with children struggling with a variety of issues.
“These kids look up to us and it’s important for the mentors to realize how important of a role we have,” Beaucage said, noting children are dealing with issues like fetal alcohol syndrome or a parent or loved one who has or attempted to commit suicide.
So what makes a good mentor?
“A good mentor offers encouragement, is a good listener and leads by example.”
He also wants to offer them hope.
Beaucage is now a teacher at Nbisiing Secondary School teaching the Ojibway language.
“It’s a dream job. I never thought I would be here.”