Travellers with Breaking Borders, a summer adventure program that is self-organized by young survivors of childhood cancer, hang out on a tall ship in Lake Huron. (Camp Quality Canada photo)

Breaking Borders on Haida Gwaii

A group of young cancer survivors will choose their own Haida Gwaii adventure this summer.

A group of young cancer survivors chose Haida Gwaii for their own summer adventure this August.

Besides exploring the islands’ natural beauty and Haida history, the 10 twenty-somethings from Ontario will give back by cleaning plastic beach debris off North Beach at an Aug. 25 clean-up organized by Sangan Streamkeepers and BC Parks.

“I think it was really the natural beauty of the place, the remoteness,” says Brendan Turner, executive director of Camp Quality Canada, a charity that helps young cancer survivors organize their own adventures.

“I think there’s also a real attraction to the history,” Turner added, noting while Canada is celebrating 150 years as a country, Haida Gwaii is among the first places in North America where people settled over 10,000 years ago.

For decades, Camp Quality has run free, six-week summer camps for children who have cancer or who are in remission. It also has a puppet show that tours elementary schools, showing kids ways to include friends with cancer.

The charity takes its name from something a doctor once told its Australian founder, Vera Entwistle: “No one can do anything about the quantity of life, but we can all do something about the quality.”

Four years ago, the charity piloted its new Breaking Borders for adults ages 21 to 25 as a fun way to pick up life skills and leadership training. Other groups have going canoeing in Algonquin Park, sea kayaking in the Bay of Fundy, or sailing on a tall ship in Lake Huron.

Besides trip planning, the young travellers handle fundraising and organizing community initiatives, getting to know each other months before they go.

“There is a real need for programs that help children transition from the role of being a kid with cancer to being an adult with cancer, or who has had it,” Turner explained.

“When you’re a kid, you’re at a hospital and there’s lots of support, lots of follow-up,” he said.

“When you move into adulthood, it’s really on you to take care of yourself.”

To help young adults who face learning difficulties as a result of their cancer treatments, Breaking Borders also partners with SAVTI, the Ontario-based Successful Academic and Vocational Transition Initiative, which helps such survivors succeed in work or school.

For more information or to make a donation, visit Details on the Aug. 25 North Beach clean-up, which is open to anyone to join, will be posted in a future edition of the Haida Gwaii Observer.