Good-bye's are hard

Today is the first day, in almost a year, that I have come into work, knowing that I will not be expecting a youth (or two) from Katimavik to show up to assist me for the next 6 to 7 hours.

Last June a number of volunteer coordinators in this community were called together to attend an information session on Katimavik, to see if we'd be interested in participating. As a former workplace supervisor for Canada World Youth, I jumped on the opportunity to give youth from across our country an opportunity to learn new skills and grow, both personally and professionally, while supporting the work that the Galt does.

In September, our first participants arrived - Sarah and Ben! In October we got to know Nathaniel and Raphael, followed in November by Monica and Guillaume. 2010 allowed us to work with Danielle and Nadia starting in March and finally with Kevin, beginning in May and finishing a few days ago. All told, these volunteers contributed about 30 hours/week for just under a year to the museum - the time they spent here was enormous (1066 hours in total from these main volunteers, but Katimavik groups also helped with almost every event in the last year, adding in another 500 hours of time from those who did not come to the Galt as their main work placement but did volunteer for us once or twice during their rotation) and the work they accomplished was amazing. Even better were their life experiences and enthusiasm that they shared with us - it was always great and inspiring to hear about what these youth had experienced growing up, and what they hoped to get out of this amazing experience that allowed them to live in 3 very different parts of Canada (in the case of our rotation it was Burnaby BC, Lethbridge AB, and Smith Falls ON).

Sadly, we had a meeting last week to update on how things are going, just before this last group moves onto Ontario, and we were informed that due to cuts from the federal government, Katimavik has lost $10 million of it's funding in the last few years, out of a total budget of $25 million. This is a significant loss to their program so the only way to balance the budget is to cut programs, and sadly Lethbridge and the 2 programs in the Crowsnest Pass that also were part of Katimavik, will not be continuing.

This is a sad day for me as I realize how much I have come to enjoy 9 am, when my participant(s) would arrive for a day at work and we'd talk about their weekend - hearing stories of how they camped in Drumheller and some of the participants hadn't known until that day that dinosaurs had existed in Canada, to learning about the heritage and culture of Canada from seeing the Calgary Stampede. This experience truly did teach them about the culture and heritage of different parts of Canada, thus creating better citizens who have experiences to share back in their homes, while opening our eyes to life in places such as Nunavut, Nova Scotia and Quebec!

Good luck to you all! And to any parent, youth or workplace considering Katimavik, I'd definitely give it a 2 thumbs up. Maybe if enough applicants apply, the government will see the demand by youth to have these experiences, and come to realize that this program betters many many communities through the volunteer work done, as well as bettering people to be great citizens, and some money can be put back into the program! Our fingers are crossed.