Camp Courage empowers young women to pursue first responder’s career

Firefighter Andréa Speranza, founder of Camp Courage, encourages young women to try careers as first responders in Halifax.

Founder and executive director of Camp Courage, 45-year-old Andréa Speranza is encouraging young women to try careers as first responders in Halifax.

The one-week intensive program aims to introduce females to emergency first responder’s services. Speranza created Camp Courage in 2006.

“As far as I could understand they just didn’t know what they’re missing,” said Speranza.

Speranza is currently a firefighter at the Eastern Passage Fire Hall. She spent four years as a volunteer firefighter before gaining a paid position.

The camp is free and accepts 24 young women into the program to develop confidence, leadership skills, and problem solving abilities.

Speranza fundraises $25,000 each year the camp runs. Due to a decrease in donations, Speranza is considering charging a fee for 2015 participants in order to sustain the camp.

“We need to invest more in our youth,” said Speranza. “I never went to camp when I was a kid and Camp Courage is everything I would have wanted to do if I did.”

Camp Courage runs every second year and is located at various fire stations around Halifax.

Applications for the program were due March 31 and participations are currently being chosen, said Speranza.

Speranza chooses applicants based on a written essay explaining how they would better life within their community if they attended Camp Courage.

“If the applicant is committed to implementing what they write about in their essay they will be accepted to attend the camp,” said Speranza.

Over seven days, Camp Courage teaches participants self-defence, how to shoot a gun, put out fires, and repel down walls. They will also learn basic paramedic training.

“The whole idea of the camp is really more about changing these young girls’ mindsets and getting them to challenge themselves to try new things even if they fail the first time,” said Speranza.

According to Canada’s 2006 national census, only about 3.6 per cent of firefighters were women.

“With more information and training and education more young women will be attracted to these fields of work,” said Speranza.

Cristy Webb, 19, attended Camp Courage two years ago.

“It really decided for me what I wanted to do with my life. Camp courage made me want to be a firefighter.”

Webb has since continued on to post-secondary education at the Marine Institute where she studied fire rescue and will be doing eight weeks of on-the-job training at Fire Station 13 in Dartmouth.