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Katimavik volunteers at work. (Katimavik Facebook page)

Prince Edward Islanders involved in Katimavik, a national youth volunteer program, were shocked to hear in last week's federal budget that the program had lost all its funding.

The Conservative government said the per person cost of the $15 million a year program was too high.

More than 30,000 people have participated in the Trudeau-era program since its inception. Katimavik took young people from across the country and gave them volunteer experiences in other provinces while living with other young people. Participants volunteer with non-profit organizations during the day, and would also billet them with community members for a short time.

Ranald MacFarlane took several volunteers into his home in Fernwood, south of Summerside.

"They left here having experienced what it was really like to live in rural P.E.I.," said MacFarlane.

"Getting them out in the small towns and all over Canada, I think Katimavik is all they have."

UPEI student Josh Coles said Katimavik influenced what he chose to study.

"I didn't really speak a word of French before doing Katimavik, but after living with five people from Quebec for nine months, living in Quebec for three months, that kind of sparked some interest in French," said Coles.

"Now I'm doing a French minor and hoping that if I do become a teacher then hopefully teaching French will become part of that."

Katimavik was cut once before in the 1980s. It was brought back under Prime Minister Jean Chretien.

Supporters are hoping the Harper government will change its decision. Several online petitions and letter writing campaigns are underway.