Thirty two years ago this week, I embarked on a volunteer experience that would change my life. Prior to that I had discovered the joy of volunteering and had worked with deaf and special needs children in Vancouver, but it was on January 11, 1984 that the wider world of volunteering opened up for me.
Katimavik is a Canadian volunteer program that offers youth between the ages of 17-21 the opportunity to experience Canada like nothing else. During my final year of high-school I had met someone who had participated and as soon as I heard about the program, I knew I had to go. I applied and received my letter of acceptance the summer after graduation.
Two weeks prior to my 19th birthday I embarked on a plane alone to Toronto. From there I took a train to Trenton, Ontario where I would spend the next three months volunteering in the local community with other Canadian youth from all over Canada. Our second “rotation” took us to Isle de Soeur, Quebec and finally our last three month placement found us near Sechelt, British Columbia.
For those nine months, I lived and worked with the same group of youth. We did everything from restoring a heritage building, working with special needs pre-schoolers, to helping out at a seniors centre, to clearing bush for a riding ring. It was an intense and full experience that I believe was instrumental in making me who I am today. For this, I thank Pierre Trudeau and Jacque Hebert for holding this vision of opportunity for Canadian youth. To this day, Katimavik lives on! As does my desire to give back and make this world a better place!
This week, here in Tecpán we received our largest group of volunteers ever. Besides the six that have moved into the Somos headquarters for the next 1-2 months, we have an El Camino VolunTour group of sixteen here. I was deeply moved when I saw them arrive in the shuttle on Wednesday afternoon and when each introduced themselves and shared their motivation for coming.
We are deeply aware that each visitor has a choice of how to spend their hard earned money and where to spend their vacation time. We are so grateful to each person who has chosen to come to Tecpán to volunteer with Project Somos. It is very touching to see such passion and dedication by each person. Their enthusiasm is palpable and very much appreciated. I hope that if this is their first volunteer experience, it is a positive one that inspires them to keep on giving and sharing of themselves for years to come!