DEAR FIVE OAKIANS,
Recently I have been thinking about the cycles that exist in nature, the leaves begin to change, the nights are colder. The mayfly lives a full life cycle in 24 hours; we humans live as our bodies change from infant, to child, to youth, middle aged, and elder; while the bowhead whale exists for more than 200 years. In nature we see the cycle of four seasons, and in Canada we see them dramatically. The tree grows more each year, in Winter deepening roots, in Spring sprouting leaves, and in Fall dropping them. Some of our Oak trees have been in this cycle for over 300 years. In August, I watched the Perseids meteor shower rain through the sky, at times so brilliant it caused me to gasp in childlike delight. This cycle happens each year, even back to the dinosaurs. It is hard to remember these natural cycles in the midst of a global pandemic and acknowledge that we may just be experiencing part of earth’s cycle.
This has not been the year we expected it to be, yet it has been a year when we have had to adapt, grow and stretch. I have begun to see pandemic time as Sabbath time—a time to focus on deepening our roots as an Interfaith Retreat Centre. This has been an unexpected gift. In the next half year, we will continue to unpack what we have learned and at our Strategic Planning process on November 22, 2020 at the General Meeting, you are invited to contribute.
We love numbers, as they tell a story of what we have experienced. These figures outline the impacts of COVID-19 on Five Oaks:
- $405,000 in cancelled or postponed bookings to date–in reality this is higher as some bookings were never entertained or requested.
- 278 short-term stays for migrant workers = 3,892 bed nights and 11,676 meals.
- 48 long term stays for migrant workers commuting to farms = 2,666 bed nights.
- 109 children participated in the relaunched Five Oaks Acorn Adventure Day Camp and 64 Family members in our Family Day Camp.
- 500 Sunday Night Meals served since we began offering takeout dinners.
- 2 permanent layoffs to staff.
- 3 volunteer days.
- 1 completed Chalet Roof and 1 repainted Friendship House.
- 6 summer students were employed.
Your generosity through direct donations has been significant. I know that many of you have offered gifts that have stretched your pocketbooks. I am so grateful. I am asking you to continue to dig deep and make an end-of-year gift in order that we can continue to operate during this challenging time. Your donation continues to impact our ability to live out our mission, offer the programs that are outlined in this newsletter, and respond quickly as an essential service. We hope you’ll consider making a monthly gift and consider adding Five Oaks in your long-term plans as a bequest.
This summer of socially distanced day camp was unlike any camp Five Oaks has run before. Campers and staff were required to follow social distance practices and remain in cohorts of ten. This meant we had to adapt many typical camp activities and create our own new COVID-19 safe games. While social distancing presented some challenges, we had an excellent summer of Acorn Adventure Camp.
We ran eight weeks of camp for kids ages 6-12, a week of family day camp, and a bonus week when school start date was delayed. Over these ten weeks we had many families from Paris, Brantford, and beyond, make their way to the Five Oaks site. The kids had a great time and the parents loved a chance for a break.
For many of the campers, it was their first time getting out and meeting other kids since March. I had countless conversations with parents at drop-off and pick-up about how great it was to have a safe place for their kids to get out of the house and have fun this summer. Many of the kids came back for a second, third, or fourth week. We were also able to offer some bursaries for families who would not be able to access camp otherwise. This program was a great chance for Five Oaks to support local families during the COVID Pandemic.
Acorn Adventure Camp Director
MESSAGE FROM OUR BOARD CHAIR
Greetings, on behalf of the Board of Directors. This has been a year which has tested our nimbleness with superlatives! We are challenged, almost daily, to find ways to express that which is unprecedented, unanticipated, and for which we could not possibly be adequately prepared.
So, too, at Five Oaks. It has been a roller coaster of a year and I cannot adequately express the gratitude and the admiration of your Board of Directors to our staff and volunteers. Our creative, indefatigable, and tremendously dedicated Executive Director, Michael, has been simply amazing in the ways in which he and, through his leadership, our staff have responded to the pandemic; reached out to our community and beyond, finding ways to help and ways to keep our doors open! We have welcomed guests whose work on Canada’s farms is so important and provided so many with a safe and healthy environment in which to isolate and billet while working for the good of us all. None of this has been easy, and every day has presented new and unforeseen challenges and opportunities. All of our staff have gone way past what we could have expected of them; volunteers have leapt in and helped enormously. Our deepest thanks and affection to them all.
The Board has been carefully monitoring our activities and our operations; we have welcomed excellent new Board members into our midst and we have reviewed and recast our By-Laws. At the same time, while the situations has thrown many of our plans for this year into the proverbial cocked hat, we are moving ahead, as we can, with our Strategic Planning work; more will also be forthcoming about that in the coming months. Again the thanks to all connected with Five Oaks for this critically important work.
Five Oaks thrives from generosity—the generosity of our staff and volunteers, the generosity of our community supporters and friends, the generosity of our members. As we look at the extraordinary generosity which has surfaced through this pandemic in so many ways, I know that we too are all generous with our thoughts, prayers, and good wishes for the Centre. I know that we staunchly support a generosity of spirit and attitude which enables us to reach out in love and acceptance to all those around us. I also encourage your generosity of treasure—we rely on the financial generosity of those connected to us; please help us to continue the good work we do now and in the future. Please be generous—we rely on you!!
Five Oaks Programs and Partnerships has been on a learning curve over the past months–learning new skills in converting our ‘in person’ programming with large groups to ‘on line’ and small in-person group programs.
Sadly, we could not host many of our residential programs, including our annual School of Celtic Consciousness in July, which is one of our largest events. With some creative adjustment, we hosted the first online seminar with Dr. John Philip Newell on July 8th. We were very excited to welcome 155 participants to this zoom seminar–over 50% were from the USA and other parts of Canada. Immediately, we realized that our ‘reach’ for our programs was well beyond the driveable geographical radius around Paris!
Later in the summer we hosted 5 sessions over the span of a month of a new online course called “What the Earth Already Knows.” The course was based on creative photography/writing/reflection and was led by Kim McKellar, an artist and writer from the Bruce Peninsula. Thirty-four people took part in the five courses that were offered at different times. The course was extremely well received and we will be offering additional sessions in the fall and winter program line-up. Registration is open for the fall course in October.
We learned a lot about how to do online courses well, which helped us in dreaming and creating many NEW courses for the fall and winter. We have also learned a lot about how to host people with social distancing and safety as primary concerns, so we are also hosting some on-site COVID-19-safe residential opportunities.
Explore our Program Schedule on our website for these exciting new Program opportunities:
- Autumn session of the course What the Earth Already Knows, Oct 23rd-24th
- Sacred Earth, Sacred Soul a New seminar with John Philip Newell, Nov 15th
- Wisdom and Self-Compassion online retreat with Helen Butlin, MDiv, PhD, from London, ON, Nov 27th-28th
- Healing with Art and Stories interfaith women’s retreat online with Amira Ayad, PhD, Dec 12th-13th (with a covid-safe in-person option)
- Various one-day events such as evening moonlight hikes and owling, Oct 31st and Nov 28th
- Spirituality of Francis of Assisi, weekly evening course/retreat with Len DesRoches, Wed evenings in Jan
- Mid-Winter Renewal Retreat Soul Medicine for the Turning of the Year with Helen Butlin, Feb 2021