Georgetown Conference puts rural needs in the spotlight
Things need to change, says organizer
Hundreds of people from across Atlantic Canada are on P.E.I. for the first Georgetown Conference, a meeting dedicated to saving the region’s rural communities.
The mood outside the Kings Playhouse in Georgetown is a picture of rural calm, but inside there’s a flurry of activity.
The conference's organizer said change is in the air.
“We can't assume that the way we've thought for the last five years or 10 years or 30 years is the way to think going into the future. We all have a different reality and we have to embrace that,” said Paul MacNeill.
More than 250 people have signed up for the conference.
“We're not going to come here and go through a demographic chart and talk about woe is me Atlantic Canada, that's for other people to talk about,” said MacNeill.
“We're trying to create action environment where people can become engaged and think of thoughtful solutions.”
But the demographics do not paint a favourable picture for P.E.I.'s rural communities.
Young people, like Katie Beck, aren’t staying in small communities.
At the conference, Beck will speak about her involvement with the Women's Institute in her home community of Alliston, even though she's moved to Charlottetown.
“These opportunities are there and just because younger people aren't always engaged right now doesn't mean they don't want to be, they just may not know the proper route,” she said.
Beck said sometimes rural organizations are too quiet about their successes.
“Unfortunately that kind of ends up leaving them out of the public eye, but it really does create a very interesting dynamic and it pulls in a really very different kind of volunteer,” she said.
Organizers said this conference is all about announcing successes.
“They get here and find their counterparts and people they can learn from, and what's going to come out of this is a tremendous force for Atlantic Canada,” said conference co-chair Wade MacLauchlan.
The conference runs until Saturday. On the weekend, members of the public who didn't register can come by and take part in sessions.