CEO Blog: Undercover Boss (not really) Series – Episode 8: Education | Winnipeg Humane Society
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“All good things must come to an end”…wrote Chaucer many centuries ago. I could not help but think of his poem, as I completed my self-imposed challenge to do as many front-line jobs as possible throughout the summer of 2019. I started with a severe case of “Ivory Tower Syndrome”, and now at every turn I see our team members going about their jobs and I am so proud to say that I have a pretty good idea of what they entail and how critical they are.

My final stop was the WHS Education Team, and more specifically our Summer Kid Camp (which officially came to a close this week after another great summer!). Most people do not know that we have an Education Department and it is indeed a very busy team: from curriculum-based school programs, to tours and field trips, to our inspiring see-spot-read initiative, to birthday parties, to summer kid camps, we strive to give our youth a hands-on, fun, and most importantly Humane education.

I was picked up by Cat, the Director responsible for the area, and Danisha, the Assistant Manager who took me from my safe refuge in Administration to our camp base, which is located in the Joyce Gauthier Behaviour and Training Centre. Quick side note: without the Gauthier family’s vision and generosity, we could not have such a well-attended kid camp. Our gratitude towards Jim Gauthier and his family for choosing to honour the late Joyce Gauthier by building such a great facility.

At the Joyce Gauthier Centre, I was greeted by Amy, the Camp Supervisor. Amy is full of energy, fun, and can connect with kids in ways that only a seasoned camp leader can. She is moving to Gillam, Manitoba to take on a permanent teaching position and while we are sad this was her last week with us, we are very proud of what she will accomplish in Gillam.

The rest of the camp team is comprised of five Camp Counsellors: Rebecca, Emily, Kylie, Cullen, and Grace.

I was introduced to the campers and I asked if they knew what a CEO does. Most of the children did not know, so I had to quickly come up with a way of explaining. “My job is to listen to people” is the best I could come up with. I then asked if the campers had pets at home (99% did) and we had a good cross-representation of cats, dogs, rabbits and hamsters. They truly belong in the WHS family!

The first thing we did was an ice-breaker activity. We went outside divided into age-appropriate groups and each group had an inflatable ball which had questions written on it. The game (which I highly recommend) was as follows: You pick up the ball and say your name. Then you look at the ball and read the question where your thumb landed, for example “What is your favourite pizza topping?” You answer the question and then you look at your other thumb and read that question, you answer it and pass/throw the ball to another person, who needs to answer the last question plus one additional one based on where the thumb landed on the ball. As each person goes through this, she/he sits down. When we are all sitting it means we all had a turn and we all know our names and some of our favourite things. My questions were “Do you like Lunchables” (Answer: I never had one); and “What is your favourite sport” (Answer: Football, as in “soccer”).

At around 9:30, we started a new activity: Clinic rotation. This activity needs to be carefully coordinated, especially because camp was absolutely full. We had lots of kids, and each deserves to have a turn and be able to experience the activity. I was so impressed with Amy and her team, making sure we had the right children going to the right area and ensuring only those with permission made it to the clinic surgery viewing area.

I joined one of the groups and cycled through each of the stations. The activities were:

Animal Overpopulation – we had a number of stuffed animals looking for homes, and a number of families with different situations, campers have to do their best to find the animals homes. This activity showcases why animal shelters like the WHS exist.

Clinic Visit – we walked from our base camp to the WHS Clinic to observe a spay/neuter surgery. I was very impressed because parents need to tell us if they authorize the visit, and then each kid that has permission to see the surgery can make the choice to go, or to stay and do a different activity. And while observing surgery, if any camper feels unwell or wants to go back to the Joyce Gauthier Centre, she/he can. I actually escorted one camper who started to feel a bit queasy. I can tell you everyone gained a good appreciation of what surgery is, and the importance of spay and neuter.

Clinic Activity – back in the main camp area we got to test our hand at being a vet, on a stuffed animal. We had a cute stuffed monkey and we were expertly guided through a surgery simulation of a spay and we also did an x-ray and fixed a broken bone.

Adoption Counsellor – Campers will be doing their best to help families decide which pet might be the best fit for them. This activity is great to learn how our adoptions process works and why it is better to find the right match, not the right look!

After completing this activity we had a break for snacks and some play time. I played with a tennis ball and tried to find Lunchables, but there were none in our vending machine.

Once we were re-charged and ready to continue, the groups were split again into two: one stayed in the Joyce Gauthier Centre and we sang all sorts of camp songs. Because I grew up in a different country, all the songs were new to me and I had such a blast. We sang Green Grass Grew All Around, I Met a Bear, Boa Constrictor, Princess Pat, Juicy Moose, Coneheads, and a few others I cannot recall. Did I mention I had a grand time?

After 30 minutes of singing and dancing, we switched and went to the Adoptions areas to meet some of our adoptable animals. The team priority is to ensure the animals are not over-stimulated, and our camp leaders do a fantastic job explaining that to the kids. And the campers were awesome at understanding.

We ended up in the community cat area, and luckily for us the cats were in a good mood. The cats choose to get closer or not with all these little humans, and we had a very good visit with them.

After that it was lunchtime and time for me to say good-bye. Any day I get to wear jeans and a t-shirt and hang out with the future Humane Leaders of our community is a very good day. I am extremely proud of the work our Education department does and how well they balance Humane education and animal empathy with just plain summer fun.

Now, I am back to my regular job as we head into fall. But I may try to do this again next summer, it will be a good reminder of how important each person is to the WHS, and how many different people and animals we touch on a daily basis. No spreadsheet or meeting can teach you that.

Thanks for following along with my Undercover Boss (not really) Series this summer and if you’d like to read past posts, you can find them here.

In service,

Javier Schwersensky