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Summer Camp: Poverty Prevention Starts Early at Union Gospel Mission

Vancouver, BC—For eight straight years, BC has had the tragic distinction of maintaining the highest child poverty rate in Canada. The impact on those 121,000 children living below the poverty line can be profound. Kids in this category often have lower cognitive and emotional development—which leads to poorer performance in school—developmental delays, and emotional and behavior problems.

“In the areas where we work, poverty is often cyclical,” say Bill Mollard, President of Union Gospel Mission. “The poor children of today often become the poor parents of tomorrow. We work hard to change that. Prevention though activities like summer camp is paramount—it can change the trajectory of a child’s life.”

Research shows that activities which create camaraderie among children and their peers increase understanding and acceptance, and ease tension among kids, subduing higher rates of emotional and behavioral problems. Camp is an ideal location for fostering and sustaining these types of behaviors. Furthermore, children in a supportive environment, with access to camp counselors to talk to, not only get a trusted outlet where they can share their feelings, they also get role models to emulate.

This is why, each year, through its bighearted donors, UGM sends over 600 kids from low-income families across Metro Vancouver to one of 17 quality Christian summer camps—an opportunity their parents would not have been able to provide.

Every year, UGM receives appreciative letters from parents, like following one from Jay:

First off I would like to thank you for being there and for everything you’ve done in the last few years with Jake. He has grown into being an amazing young man. He is a mentor and leader amongst his friends and family. He understands gratitude and is immensely spiritual in so many ways. I am so proud of my son.

I believe it takes a whole community to raise a child and you are part of that. Making the decision to send him to Pioneer Pacific Camp was one of the best ever made for Jake. – Jay Holland, Proud Father

The letter went on to share a bit about the family’s struggles and why camp was so pivotal for Jake. Jay admits that Jake’s childhood was turbulent. Jay wrestled with addiction and is now a recovering alcoholic with nearly nine years of sobriety. “Jake has followed me around to [Alcoholics Anonymous] meetings since day one and has attended over 300,” Jay shared. “We continue to work through many issues. Life is one day at a time most days.”

But despite his challenges, Jake, now 18, has become a remarkable young man. Both he and his father attribute a great deal of who he is today to the transformational experience of summer camp.

“Before camp, I came from a broken family where I was used to people being high-strung and defensive,” he shares. “When I got to camp though, I found I could just relax and be myself. People just accepted me for who I am.”

Jake started to develop self-confidence. He had the opportunity to take on new roles within different teams at camp, which helped him develop further.

“Before camp, when I walked into a room I wasn’t confident enough to just go up and talk to someone. Now I can speak in front of a bunch of people—and I do!” Each year on the anniversary of his dad’s sobriety, Jake stands up in front of the 150 people and shares his family’s story of overcoming struggles.

Today, a high school graduate, Jake has already completed his first year with the Surrey School District’s Plumbing Apprenticeship Program. He still goes to camp—but now as a camp counselor! He hopes to soon volunteer at UGM. “I just want to give back to something that’s helped me become the person I am today,” he says.

To learn more or to help send a child to camp: visit  or call 604-891-5682 or 1-888-347-HOPE (4673).

Union Gospel Mission has been feeding hope and changing the lives of men, women, and children for over 70 years. Through its 9 locations in Metro Vancouver and the city of Mission, UGM provides counseling, education, safe housing, and alcohol and drug recovery to those struggling with poverty, homelessness, and addiction. The heart of the mission is to demonstrate God’s transforming love, ease the burden of the most vulnerable, rebuild the lives of the broken, and offer dignity to those who feel cast aside. To find out more, visit


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