The CBC Community had a strong reaction to the Federal government's pledge to eliminate the Katimavik youth volunteer program - a cut that was tabled during Thursday's budget.
When we asked readers if the government was right to cut Katimavik's funding, 83 per cent of over 2,000 respondents said 'No,' 12 per cent said 'Yes,' and the rest said they were not sure.
Read: Katimavik defended 26 years after Hebert hunger strike
Canadians with Katimavik connections flooded our inbox with stories and photographs. Here is a selection of photographs and short list of letters, which have been edited for length.
- Aisling Brock
- Daniel Arnold
- Elsie Nisonen
- Gabrielle de Montigny
- Jennifer Crigger
- Kyra Muller
- Laura Berry
- Marco Adamovic
- Marie-Pier Beaulieu
- Pamela Hay
"I can't pinpoint the one day that changed my life or the one thing I learned that still resonates with me today, because Katimavik was a whole package deal. To me, taking a risk and learning to cross country ski in Kelowna was just as valuable as attending a forum on racial discrimination at the Governor General's house, or volunteering to pick up garbage in communities in Quebec.
My work with the Canadian National Institute for the Blind in B.C., was just as important as assisting teachers in Ottawa, or helping to launch a compost program in rural Quebec.
And then there's the moments that nobody has photos of or has written news articles about: learning to live with others who have grown up in completely different places with experiences that polarized my own, becoming a little more independent (albeit with a bit of a safety net) and appreciating this amazing country and all it has to offer.
I'm devastated to lose this program ... [which] has helped shaped me into the young woman I have become."
"Katimavik changed my life in more ways than I can say. It made me a stronger person at a time when I was not quite ready for university. The person I was on Sept 2, 2009 was not the same person I was on Feb 17, 2010.
Our group was the very first group of volunteers to come to Rigolet, Labrador, a remote town of only 300 people. For these three months we worked in places such as the town hall, the local craft shop, the recreation centre and the school of which I was placed.
The people I met from across this country I still keep in touch with today. There is not a week that goes by that I don't encounter someone here at the University of Ottawa, where I go to school, that either completed the program, had the intention of doing it or knows someone that has done it. When I came back from the program and got a job, the first thing my employer said was "oh you did the Katimavik program?"
I like to say that like Hockey, Katimavik touches the hearts and minds of Canadians from coast to coast to coast. And when I look back at my experience and the experience with Katimavik I continue to have today such as giving recruitment presentations, I know that it has."
"Katimavik played a pivotal role in my life. I was in the program when Jacques Hebert went on a hunger strike. I had the privilege of meeting him later on in life and I had a chance to personally thank him.
Katimavik broadened my horizons, taught me French, cooking skills, leadership skills and team skills. I got to go to places like Happy Valley Goose Bay, Labrador; and Bragg Creek, Alberta; and Rivière-du-Loup, Quebec.
I have a much broader appreciation for Canada because of the program. I know how to budget and plan meals on a very small budget. I know what it is like to volunteer, what a hard slog it is and I appreciate volunteers more.
I still volunteer and feel very strongly about civic engagement. It was not all wine and roses (or powdered milk and homemade bread in this case) but I learned so much. One of my dearest friends was in the program with me. We met when we were 18-years-old and we are still friends at 45!"
Gabrielle de Montigny
"In my last year of high school, while my friends were gearing up for university, I felt lost in a sea of discomfort.
I felt confused because I didn't know what I would do if I took a year off. I was certainly not prepared to go abroad and I definitely did not have the money to do so. I didn't have the proper experience to get a job, let alone the desire to simply work for a year before school. I felt stuck in a society where it is frowned upon not to go to post-secondary straight after high school.
One day, my mother mentioned Katimavik. As soon as I thoroughly read and re-read the website, I knew that this was exactly the program for me. It was as if someone had designed a program for me! Fast-forward a couple of months and there I was, sitting at a bonfire with my soon-to-be-best friends that, nine months later, I would consider family. Together, we were assigned to three Canadian destinations where we offered our services, on volunteer basis, and where we discovered and learned to appreciate the multi-faceted and rich Canadian society.
I think that many young people can relate to some of the things I went through before finding Katimavik.
This program enables youth to get out of their bubble and to experience new and valuable things. They are given tools to empower themselves when they leave the program and to make a difference!"
"Katimavik isn't something that can be bottled up or even explained in a few photos. It lives in your bones, your mind and your heart forever. When you meet a fellow "Katima-victim" you are instantly friends and can't stop sharing silly stories about baking bread or silly house routines.
As a participant, I lived in Cassleman, Ontario; Corner Brook, Newfoundland; and Redvers, Saskatchewan. Each community taught me something new. There was never a dull moment. I later moved on to being a Project Leader, working for the program.
Katimavik gives me a sense of well being. I am truly a better human being because of the program. When I finished, I moved on to college, graduated and now I am sitting here with my 6-month-old daughter looking through old memories.
I want my daughter to have the same opportunity as me. I want her to be able to love and know Katimavik the way I did, and do."
"While I was living in Quebec, I had the opportunity to volunteer at a homeless shelter in the heart of Old Quebec. I did a wide variety of tasks, one of which was helping out in the shelters secondhand store. Located in a small side street of Old Quebec it was in a narrow warehouse with limited lighting and no heat.
The homeless, or people with low financial incomes, could come to the store for two hours a day and pick out clothes, blankets, jackets, shoes and take it for free. I would sit with my fellow volunteer Marc-Andre and he would write down the person's name and what they were taking and I would put the clothes they wanted in a second hand shopping bag.
What impacted me the most was the one man who came to me after Marc-Andre had left for the day. He was clearly unfortunate and it was most likely the first time he'd been to the warehouse, as he tried to buy all the free clothes that he picked out from me.
I had to try in my broken French to explain to him, that it was free and he didn't need to pay us anything. After refusing to take it, he told us he wanted to donate the money to us and the shelter anyways for helping him out.
There are millions of things that I would never have been able to witness, or be a part of without Katimavik. This is only one of the hundreds of experiences and stories that I have from those best 6 months of my life."
"This program taught me more than I had ever learned in university. I worked at two Native Friendship Centres where I not only gained new skills and work experience, I was engaged in the native community where I developed a better understanding of Aboriginal and Canadian heritage.
This program helped me to develop my second language more than I ever had developed in a public educational institution. I was fortunate to be able to learn about different cultures across our vast nation, not only by seeing our beautiful country, but by interacting with people from every province and territory. I now can recognize what it means to be Canadian.
I feel like the voices of youth today are not adequately recognized by any level of government. With the horrendous youth unemployment rate being double the national average, I feel like the Katimavik program is needed more now than ever."
"My perspective comes as both a past participant and currently, as a Project Leader in Vancouver. I have seen first-hand the numerous positive impacts that Katimavik has had on Canada's youth and the communities which Katimavik operates in.
For the participants (tomorrow's accountants, environmental engineers, and politicians), Katimavik continues to promote competencies and skills which others are either unwilling or unable to teach in Canada's formal education system.
Through Katimavik's informal, experiential educational model, participants gain experience in, among other skills: leadership, self-sufficiency, budgeting, conflict management, and eco-citizenship; as well as work professionalism skills that are sought after by most, if not all, employers.
If small groups of youth can contribute so much to different communities across the country, it is beyond my comprehension why the current government cannot match the enthusiasm and commitment to its youth and communities."
"I jumped in this program like a kid would jump in candies. I was 15, when I first heard about Katimavik, and I completely fell in love with the program. Two years later I was in a plane heading to Toronto, full of excitement. The program and my group changed my life.
I experienced things that I would have never experienced without Katimavik. I still remember the atmosphere of my first Katimavik house, and how happy I was to be part of that program. I still remember the debriefing camp at the end of the program, the friends I made. It's been three years already, and I still remember everything as if it was yesterday.
This is how important Katimavik was and still is for me. I learned about myself, I learned about others, and it made me see all the possibilities I had and what I was capable of. Today, I still notice the positive impact this program had on me as I am currently doing a BA in education.
Through different experiences in Katimavik, I discovered that being a teacher was something that I would enjoy doing. I had the opportunity to do it for free. I hope arrangements can be made so that Katimavik can still be volunteering around Canada. If later I can tell my children to apply to Katimavik, I will because it has been the most rewarding experience of my life." ______________________________________________________________
Port Coquitlam, B.C.
"We live in a country that is as diverse as it is large. Our diversity is what makes Canada an amazing place, but it has been and continues to be a source of great tension. We are split by many metaphorical fault lines.
There is the French/English divide, the rural/urban divide, the East/West divide and the First Nations divide. Katimavik crosses these divides and bridges these gaps.
I have studied both Canadian history and geography and nothing has even come close to teaching me as much about Canada and the people in it as Katimavik has. Katimavik does not just touch the lives of the participants - it also changes the lives of people in the communities that take part.
I know people who would have lived their entire lives never leaving their own small town if it have not been for Katimavik, I know others who had never met a First Nations person or spoken to a native French speaker before Katimavik. Katimavik changed many of the prejudices I had, it taught me what I wanted to do with my life, and instilled the value of volunteerism in me and my friends and family.
Katimavik changes lives, many lives, and deserves to be saved. In the coming years there is no way to know what the world will bring. The international climate in which we all now live is not becoming any more stable and the only way we as a nation will be able to face these coming challenges is by staying strong and united. Katimavik unites our country in a way that nothing else can. It is not just a youth program -- it is a unifying program."
- Was the government right to cut the Katimavik program?
- Katimavik defended 26 years after Hebert hunger strike
- Katimavik photo gallery
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