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Nick Hamm with his family, volunteering at the Silver Lake Family Project in 2016. L to R: Peter Kroeker, Lena Goertzen, Nick Hamm, Raya Konkle (6), Dorothy Hamm, Eben Konkle (11), Scott Konkle, Jared Konkle (8). Photo courtesy of Nick Hamm

An eight-year-old kneels, with battery-operated drill in hand, over a sheet of plywood. He knows what to do.  

It’s a familiar scene at Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) Family Projects. It’s amazing what young people can accomplish with the instruction and tools, said Nick Hamm. 

Hamm is serving as the Project Coordinator for MDS Canada’s 2024 Family Project at Willowgrove’s Fraser Lake Camp in Bancroft, Ontario this July. 

It’s his second time leading an MDS Family Project. In the first iteration, at Silver Lake Mennonite Camp in 2016, four generations of Hamm’s own family joined him for a week — including his wife, mother in-law, uncle, a son in-law and three grandchildren.  

Hamm saw multigenerational families volunteering together early into his introduction to MDS ten years prior. He knew it was something he wanted for his own family too. 

Although Hamm’s grandkids knew about the organization’s relief work through their grandfather’s stories and photos, he said volunteering at a family project increased their awareness. 

“I was eight years old when I first volunteered with MDS, at Silver Lake Mennonite Camp with my family. It was really cool because I got to do it with my whole extended family, including my great grandma. We built a shed and we worked on some other buildings. When I go back to camp now, it’s cool to see something I built,” said Jared Konkle, Hamm’s grandson, now 16. 

From July 7 – August 2, 2024, family volunteers will construct several program buildings, volunteer and staff housing, and some basic furniture pieces for Fraser Lake Camp.  

It will allow the camp to expand their program and have more up to date facilities for campers and staff, said Hamm. 

Begun by Mennonites from southern Ontario in 1955, Fraser Lake Camp now serves the larger community of Bancroft and beyond, hosting approximately 75 campers per week. The camp seeks to create community, foster belonging, and help children and youth develop independence. 

Family project volunteers will have opportunities to connect with campers and staff at a Sunday fireside and through optional evening games for kids, where they can connect with campers their age.  

The family project will balance work with play, giving families daily free time for recreational activities like swimming, kayaking and wall climbing. 

Hamm looks forward to working alongside young people again.  

His advice to new family volunteers, “Be ready to do anything that you’re asked to do — with a servanthood attitude.” 

As for Konkle, he said, “I would highly recommend this experience to other people as a way to help… and have fun with others at the same time. It was awesomesauce.” 

To learn more about 2024 MDS Family Projects in Canada and the U.S. and to sign up, visit mds.org/family-program. 

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