College builds partnership with Agur Lake

The Agur Lake Camp Society passed another hurdle recently with the signing of a long-term agreement with Okanagan College, which will see students from the residential construction program building cabins for the planned camp for those with disabilities.

Amanda Lewis (right) watches while Okanagan College president Jim Hamilton (left)

The Agur Lake Camp Society passed another hurdle recently with the signing of a long-term agreement with Okanagan College, which will see students from the residential construction program building cabins for the planned camp for those with disabilities.

“We have been working so long for this project. Today, for us, is truly a milestone,” said Amanda Lewis, noting that as a director of the society, a student at Okanagan College and a person living with disabilities, the day had triple meaning for her. “This day feels like a total dream. It is hard to believe that we have reached this goal. We are leaving the stage of Agur Lake being a dream and seeing it become a reality.”

The Agur Lake Camp Society was formed in 2004 after the Agur family signed a 99-year lease agreement, providing four acres of waterfront land to the registered society. The mandate of the society is to provide barrier-free outdoor experiences to those who would not normally be able to attend a camp due to physical, sensory and/or medical challenges.

“I think it gives the students a bit of social awareness about the need to help people in their community,” said Donna Lomas, regional dean for the South Okanagan. “This particular project really gives them some skills in building a facility for people with severe disabilities. It’s actually enriching their curriculum.”

Since the society’s inception, the volunteer board has been working hard to make the idea a reality, expanding the original four acres with a lease on 30 acres of Crown land, and preparing the area for use first as a day camp while they make their way to the ultimate goal.

One of the big supporters along the way has been former Liberal MLA Rick Thorpe who joined forces with Steve Tuck, then president of the Okanagan College Foundation and a member of the Agur Lake Camp Society, to approach college president Jim Hamilton.

“These two gentleman really get what the college is all about,” said Hamilton, noting that part of the college’s mission is to transform lives and communities, which they do by engaging in projects like the Agur Lake Camp.

“Our students, as they go about building the cabin that will be the first project under our umbrella agreement, are going to be taking part in learning with a really meaningful purpose,” said Hamilton. “Not only will they be learning the skills they need … but they will be learning by doing it and doing it for a great cause.”

Barb Hatton, president of the Agur Lake Society, sees the agreement with the college as the start of the next phase of the Agur Lake project.

“These truly are exciting times,” she said. “The partnership will greatly enhance the advancement of our society’s dream of creating a barrier-free camp,” she said. “We have one cabin being built now, but that is just the beginning.”

Sixteen students from Okanagan College’s Penticton residential construction program began their studies in early February. Next month, after learning about carpentry, tool usage and safety, the students and their instructor will begin building a cabin for the Agur Lake Camp Society. The cabin will be constructed at the Penticton campus and will be transported to Agur Lake in August.

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