The children of Manulife Financial Corp. employees can take a virtual visit to the International Space Station, create their own ice cream in a bag and design a toy boat during a virtual summer camp put on by the insurer.
Camp Manulife is running for four weeks in late July and early August, with the goal of supporting employees and their families. More than 3,000 children are participating, about 70 per cent of whom are in Canada.
“Recognizing that these are pretty unusual times and the whole family is impacted — not just our direct employee — we’ve been trying to think outside of the box for different things that we can do,” says Pamela Kimmet, chief human resources officer at Manulife.
Camp Manulife was born out of a successful early-pandemic initiative that hosted lunchtime virtual sessions for employees and their families, where children were able to ask questions to an astronaut about outer space and health experts came on to discuss parents’ concerns. An employee group, focused on building resilience and optimism in the workforce during the pandemic, had the idea to turn the sessions into something bigger.
“One of the things we stand for as a company is well-being and that’s not just financial well-being, . . . it’s also mental and physical well-being,” says Kimmet. “We realized, ‘Gosh, parents have had to homeschool, they’ve had the kids at home. Now the kids have summer, what do they have to look forward to?'”
Camp Manulife has two camper groups — for children aged four to seven and seven to 10 — with targeted activities. Participating kids have received hands-on activity kits in the mail through the insurer’s partnership with KiwiCo Inc., as well as a camp kit from Manulife with specially designed shirts and other knick knacks. At the end of the four weeks, the children will have an end-of-camp ceremony and sing a special song.
Campers have the opportunity to participate in activities such as story time, building their own lava lamps and virtual trips to locations around the world, including Australian zoos, the Boston Children’s Museum and the Great Wall of China. Throughout the four weeks, they can earn badges and points to win prizes such as a slip and slide or a virtual visit with a celebrity or influencer.
“One of the things we wanted to integrate into our camp experience was, obviously, fun — that’s super important — but we also wanted to expose kids to a broad range of things,” says Kimmet. “And so there’s a science, technology and math aspect to it, recognizing our actuarial roots as a company. There are both fun activities and creative activities that help [kids] expand on many fronts.”
Manulife’s global leadership team has also been involved with Camp Manulife, with one taking on the role of chief camp counsellor and the insurer’s chief executive officer Roy Gori taking on story time duties.
The event was designed to allow children to have independent time, notes Kimmet. “Kids want their own fun times, their own moments. And parents need a little break, too. That’s what makes for healthy families.”
She says the response from employees whose children are participating has been heartwarming. “It’s been a really big positive impact that we’re pretty excited about.”