Working with West Point Grey CC’s Day Camps opened up career opportunities and lasting friendships
The daughter of Iranian immigrants, Niki Moshiri remembers how lucky she was that her mother encouraged her to get involved in her community.
“Growing up wasn’t easy,” recalls the now 22-year-old who lives in downtown Vancouver. Her parents didn’t speak English very well, which made life more challenging for them earlier on. “But my mom always wanted me to take classes at our local community centre, and that’s when I started to volunteer with day camps.”
Now the manager of West Point Grey Community Centre’s Day Camps, Niki can appreciate how pivotal her mom’s advice was for her future career path.
Moving up the ladder
Niki become more involved in her local community centre when she was 13, including taking a position as a Day Camp youth volunteer. In this role, Niki supported Day Camp leaders and learned more about the tasks and responsibilities of being a Day Camp leader.
Niki excelled in her role and was persuaded to apply for a Day Camp leader position at West Point Grey CC when she was 16. She got the job.
Since then, Niki has worked as a junior and senior Day Camp leader with several West Point Grey Community Centre Day Camps, including Sunshine Day Camp (for ages 5-9), Camp Soleil (a French camp for ages 6-12) and Discoveries Adventure Day Camp (for ages 9-13).
“I learned that I really love working with kids,” recalls Niki, who will be going into the fourth year of a neuro-psychology degree program at Simon Fraser University this Fall. “I want my future career to involve working with kids in some way,” she adds, noting that she’s weighing her options for post-graduation and is considering either pursuing a master’s degree in educational psychology or her Bachelor of Education to become a teacher.
Day Camps give Niki the opportunity to give back to her community and support kids of all ages and nationalities. Niki recalls the growth and development of one day camp participant in particular whose parents immigrated to Canada from China.
“I knew him since he was five years old, didn’t speak English and was really shy,” she notes. “If you saw him now [at eight years old], you wouldn’t even know that he was once really quiet and uncomfortable, because now he’s so outgoing and talkative.”
A special place to work
Working with West Point Grey Community Centre’s Day Camps is a unique experience. Being close to the forest and beaches means campers can quickly and easily access all kinds of outdoor recreation activities.
There are a host of different day camps for ages 2.5-13, including specialty camps for preschoolers, skimboarding camps, Japanese language camps and more. Plus the Trimble Park Playground and wading pool is just up the hill at Trimble Street and West 8th Avenue.
“A lot of the campers come from the West Point Grey neighbourhood,” states Niki, “so while there is a diverse community of kids, many know each other and are connected to each other.”
One of the things Niki appreciates most about her experience so far is the relationship she’s developed with campers.
“Being recognized within the community gives me a sense of pride and meaning,” says Niki with a smile. “I look forward to coming back year after year! There’s a sense of fulfillment having kids recognize me every year, knowing that I had some sort of small impact on their life and summer.”
“A lot of the parents look forward to seeing a familiar face, as well,” she adds.
Learning through doing
Working with Day Camps hasn’t always been easy, but the challenges Niki faced prepared her for taking on more senior positions.
“My first year working as a Day Camp leader, I was really stressed out,” admits Niki.
There were times when she felt overwhelmed by the responsibilities of managing groups of 30 kids, even with the support of two other leaders and up to three youth volunteers. After a few weeks, though, Niki got into the swing of things. Within a couple of years, she progressed to a senior leader role.
In 2019, Niki accepted the job of day camp manager – with the encouragement of West Point Grey CC staff – taking on more of a leadership role and more responsibility. She has also had opportunities to work with West Point Grey CC’s Licensed Preschool, special events and weekend birthday parties.
“I have seen so much growth in Niki and am proud of the young woman she has become,” says Natalie Vermaas, the Recreation Programmer at West Point Grey Community Centre who has known Niki since Niki was 12 years old, and also played an important role for Niki growing up and now oversees her work at the Centre. “The families and people in the community have really gotten to know Niki and look forward to seeing her at the Centre.”
A tight-knit team
Niki also really appreciates the friendships she’s formed with other day camp leaders.
“I’ve known most of the leaders for a long time,” she says, “so sometimes, after camp, we’ll go bowling, out for ice cream, to restaurants or to a movie in Stanley Park. So you really develop friendships during this time.”
At the end of the season, all leaders are invited to an appreciation social to celebrate their hard work. Past activities have included dragon boating, bowling, an escape room and a games night.
For more information about West Point Grey Community Centre Day Camps, visit www.westpointgrey.org/programs/day-camps. To learn about Day Camp leader and volunteer opportunities, visit www.westpointgrey.org/get-involved.