WCK Connection Programs Coordinator Kelsey lifts the lid on how being part of a community of practice helps her to tackle Imposter Syndrome and become her best self, both professionally and personally.
Alongside the ins and outs of Kelsey’s everyday work at WCK – planning, running, and evaluating programs for kids and families – she also recently served a two-year term on the board for the Children’s Oncology Camping Association (COCA) and was their regional director for Canada.
COCA’s mission is to strengthen, support, and connect the international community of camps for people and families affected by childhood cancer. Kelsey shares what has grown from the WCK connection with COCA.
How did WCK become part of a community of practice?
Even before we were part of COCA, Shannon (WCK Executive Director) always said, “Reach out to other people who are in a role like yours.” The people we’ve met have been open and generous about sharing best practices because they want the best experiences for kids and families navigating childhood cancer and blood disorders.
Shannon said to me, “Learn from them. Ask questions, share what we’re doing, and get their opinion on it.” And so it started with that. Just saying, “Hey, I’m Kelsey, I’m new to this role. This is what I bring to the table and these are the questions that I have. Do you wanna chat?” As that grew, and as we officially became a part of COCA, the opportunities kept coming.
What kind of opportunities come from being part of COCA?
They run many different town halls and webinars through the year that provide learning resources and chances to network. There’s also the yearly conference with a range of themes like “Supervising,” “Being the camp director,” or “How to lead youth volunteers.” The people who go are sitting in those roles or want to be in those roles, so you get to connect with like-minded people.
You then start to recognize more people, grow your network, and explore things further with them. If you keep asking and reaching out, you naturally draw more people in, because it’s serving as a fruitful space.
Have you always found someone who could relate to your situation?
Yes! In particular, Lauren from Camp Quality Canada and Ben from Kids Cancer Care in Alberta, the three of us just clicked. Ever since November 2019, we've been in a group chat together. They have been a great resource for me and, even though their camps have been running for a much longer time, WCK really steps up to the plate too, so that exchange of knowledge is always effective. Our group is a safe space where we can chat in a professional way, but also – when I’m feeling Imposter Syndrome, or when I’m really proud of something and just want to shoot the breeze – they’re my people.
How does being in a community of practice reassure you?
For a long time, I felt intimidated because I was new to the camping world. 2019 was the first day camp I ever ran. I had that Imposter Syndrome, thinking, “What do I have to share?” Then, from sharing with peers, I realized my strengths and thought, “Hold on a hoot! I am here for a reason – I’m good at things. I shouldn't be afraid to say that.”
At one COCA conference, I went to a session about “Imposter Syndrome for the Camp Director.” All these people who have been in it for years – and have done amazing things – were sitting there, too! It’s all so normal. We need to toot our own horns and be proud of the things we do and of how we do them.
How does it strengthen your work?
It helps with all aspects of my role. I can’t do it alone – I’m one person. I have great strengths, but I also have gaps like anyone else. Networking and connecting with other professionals allows me to not put myself in a box, grow my strengths, understand my weaknesses, and reach out to people with a focus on continual reflection and improvement. It opens the doors for me to grow personally and professionally. There’s a reason this is considered best practice, because it means we fulfill our potential for the families we serve.
There’s a practical side to it, too. If WCK doesn’t provide the kind of support a family needs, I want to know who does. Then, if a family asks, I know who to connect them with and personally link them in, so they don’t have to jump through any hoops.
How does the community of practice support you personally?
It can be hard working in an emotional space. I have so much respect for the families and it’s an honour to do the job I do, but sometimes it can feel scary. I want to do it right, and I want to be the best me possible. When I’m making a choice, am I making the right one?
Having peers to talk to and be vulnerable with is reassuring. Others are often having the same issues as me. I am seen and heard by like-minded people who get it. When other people are having a hard time, I get to help them. It’s that give and take that reminds me of how much we all offer into the space. A community of practice is so much more than the sum of its parts.
What does community mean to you?
Community runs through all we do, including how we practice our programming. We would love to know what community means to you. Share with us by sending a message below.