If your child has gone to a day camp in NDG or Côte des Neiges over the past decade, then you probably owe Prevention NDG crime prevention counsellor Joseph Lambert a big thank you.

Each spring, Lambert meets with the staff of the borough’s day camps, making sure they have all the tools to keep their youngsters safe and happy.

This year, he’ll be visiting between 15 and 20 day camps, speaking to about 400 staff members.

“When I started working for Prevention NDG 10 years ago, this was one of the first programs I ran, and it’s how I started to embrace my job,” said Lambert. “I’ve had over 20 years of experience working with kids, so the main thing I want the counsellors and counsellors-in-training to have is a feeling of security and knowing what to do in case there is an emergency.”

Some of the topics Lambert covers in his sessions include managing a large group of children, how to deal with kids and public transportation, strangers, accidents and interaction with the general public.

“I tailor each session to the day camp, which includes taking the staff out so we can see their surroundings,” said Lambert, who uses role-playing to prepare the staff. “I’ll drop a pen and then say, ‘There’s a syringe on the ground’, and ask them what they would do. We talk about what is an emergency situation and how they should deal with it. What do they do if the metro train pulls out and they leave a child on the platform? What if they deal with a citizen who is acting aggressively? They have to learn to remain calm no matter what the situation and remember that they are representing a non-profit organization.”

Lambert said the biggest feedback he gets from the staff is they wish the sessions lasted longer.

“When I started, each session was about an hour, but now they’re almost two hours. And the counsellors still want more,” he said.

“I think the other thing I hear is that the counsellors feel comfortable with the system we teach them: one counsellor deals with any situation that may come up while the other counsellor stays with the kids. Knowing that helps them to remain calm.”

Lambert said that even after the sessions are done, he still remains a resource for the day camp staffs. “This is my program … it’s my baby,” he said. “All the staff members know they can always contact me afterwards, whether it’s to sit in on a team meeting or just if they need advice on a certain issue.”

So while many of us do owe a debt of thanks to Lambert, he says he’d like to hand out a big thank-you of his own.

“I’d like to thank all the day camp staffs,” he said. “They do a super important job, displaying strong leadership and creating a safe environment for kids who don’t always have one in their own homes.”