An open letter from a Katimavik participant

Photo: rmillar91/Flickr

My name is Gabrielle de Montigny and I am 20 years old. I currently live in Toronto, Ont. and I would like to share my story.

First of all, I would like to state how deeply hurt and saddened I am by the Conservative government's decision to cut the Katimavik program out of the federal budget.

When I heard the news, I felt sad for those who would never experience what I have experienced. In this letter I would like to tell you specifically how Katimavik impacted me and those around me and how it has the potential to impact so many other youth and communities around Canada. I am not one to write letters personally but given the profound impact Katimavik has had on me, I strongly believe that you need to hear my story.

So please take a few minutes of your time during your busy workday to hear me out on the issue of cutting Katimavik out of the budget. I ask you to please give me that respect and common courtesy; it's all that I can ask for.

In my last year of high school, while my friends were gearing up for university, I felt lost in a sea of discomfort. I had no idea what I wanted to do and strongly felt that it just was not my time to go into post-secondary education as of yet.

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 the post-secondary route 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 has designed a program for my interest! That same day, I sent my application.

Fast-forward a couple of months and there I was: sitting at a bonfire with 12 (including my project leader) of my soon-to-be best friends which, nine months later, I would consider family. Together, we were assigned to three Canadian destinations where we offered our services, on a volunteer basis, and where we discovered and learned to appreciate the multi-faceted and rich Canadian society.

After my last volunteer placement (Kamloops Art Council) within the Katimavik program, I ended up getting hired there for the summer: it was one of the best summers of my life. I would have never gone to B.C. had it not been for Katimavik, let alone given the opportunity to develop my independence and discover the people of Western Canada !

Throughout these nine amazing months, Katimavik offered me the opportunity to learn how to plan meals, cook, clean, and take on various and everyday responsibilities in a house full of 12 people. It gave me experience that I am proud to add to my resume. It enabled me to learn about myself and how to interact with others. It enabled me to discover parts of Canada I had never been to before and the cultures and stories behind them. It put me into situations from which I learned tremendously. It enabled me to meet all kinds of different people in different settings and environments.

Finally, it put me in a position of trust and deep involvement with communities I had never experienced before.

 Gabrielle de Montigny

I had the time of my life and I can without a doubt say that had I not done Katimavik I would be in a completely different place right now (not in a good way). Volunteering has now become a way of life for me after the program.

I think 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 teaches youth to care about their future, the community, the environment and their peers.

After Katimavik, I took another year off to work and then went backpacking around Southern India. In India, I volunteered on organic farms and got involved in the communities I visited. Where am I now? I just finished my first year of in Environmental Studies at York University, with a certificate in International Project Management. I have a part-time job, all year round, to pay my tuition fees, apartment, living expenses, etc. This summer (2012), I am taking a few days off for a bike tour with an organization called Otesha -- which, by the way, I heard about through Katimavik! I have ambitious plans for my future and I can thank Katimavik for that.

I thank you for taking the time to read this letter. I truly hope that you can find some common ground with me and all of the Katimavik supporters, enough to participate in bringing the program back into the federal budget.

I truly believe that the passion Katimavik had entrusted in us will make this program resurface. Rest assured that we will not just brush this off and continue on: Katimavik has not taught us to respond that way. I hope that you can agree with the fact that youth needs empowerment in order to become the leaders of tomorrow: Katimavik did, does and, hopefully, will keep on doing just that.

Sincerely,

Gabrielle de Montigny

Katimavik Participant (2009-2010)

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