The eleven young people who are volunteering around Vanderhoof at schools and service clubs squeeze together for a photo. The 35-year-old organization has produced 17

The eleven young people who are volunteering around Vanderhoof at schools and service clubs squeeze together for a photo. The 35-year-old organization has produced 17

Katimavik volunteers find friendship, work, social skills and citizenry

Volunteers from Katimavik have arrived and are willing and able to help out with projects

Apryl Veld

Omineca Express

Volunteers from Katimavik have arrived and are willing and able to help out with projects in and around Vanderhoof over the next three months, says the local Katimavik project leader.

“Anything that will create opportunities for  valuable work experience,” Adrienne Dalla-Longa said, “that’s what we’re hoping for.”

The 11 young people whose ages vary between 17 and 21 live with youth from across Canada and commit to volunteering for six months providing up to 35 hours a week helping out different organizations.

The new recruits have some work lined up with Nechako Strong Start, Neighbourhood Space, Mobile Work Crew, The Bean coffee shop, Riverside Place and some of the area elementary schools along with the high school in Vanderhoof.

Katimavik aims to help young people to gain skills in connecting with people of different communities, learning both official languages and developing lifelong personal, professional, social skills, cultural development, healthy living and environmental stewardship.

Some of the volunteers agreed to be interviewed about their time so far in Vanderhoof and their reasons for signing up.

“So far it’s been amazing,” said Curtis Brillanpes, “There’s so many faces I’m almost overwhelmed.”

He had never been outside his home town of Calgary, Alberta but is excited about becoming bilingual, one of the opportunities that the Katimavik program tries to make possible through matching students from both official language backgrounds. He looks forward also to going to Gatineau, Quebec where even more “Francais” immersion will occur.

Nichole Brewer who hails from Ingersol, Ontario said her experience so far has helped her gain more independence.

“In a house with 12 other people and one bathroom you learn to do things more efficiently and things that were important before are not such a big deal,” she shared.

The student with two years college completed says it helps that people in her group are going through the same emotion and other experiences as she is, and that building strong friendships is a major part of taking part in Katimavik.

She hopes that it can help her find out what she wants to do after the program.

“I realized (before coming to Vanderhoof) that my program in college was not for me so I hope to realize what it is I want to do at the end.”

Sean Presnail said things are going pretty well for him, volunteering at The Bean, a not-for-profit business in Vanderhoof that seeks to support its suppliers in developing countries. He also enjoys being at McLeod Elementary in Vanderhoof two days a week.

He likes the contrast being with the adults at The Bean and then the kids,” he observed.

Presnail said Katimavik program is helping him come out of his shell, so to speak.

“I can be pretty shy,” he said, “so working with people, getting the skill and being comfortable around people has been helpful.”

He added that getting out of Allifton, an hour north of Toronto has been a good experience.

“I’m really happy doing this, and I want to become a more engaged citizen … I think it helps build character, and I enjoy doing more things to make this a better country,” Presnail said.

Katimavik in Vanderhoof would really like to hear from groups interested in summer volunteers for the next group who start in June, when most schools close and those kinds of opportunities become more scarce.