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The art of biting your tongue, or how to be a Katimavik project leader

I’ve been in Moncton, NB since December 14th, and figuring out how to be a Katimavik project leader along the way.

Let me try to sum up what my job entails, really quickly. I share a house with eleven 17 to 21 year olds from across Canada (BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario and Québec in my case). These youngsters are called volunteers in the Katimaworld. These volunteers have signed up to be a part of the Katimavik program for 6 months – they are spending 3 months here in Moncton, with me. While they’re in Moncton, they will be volunteering full time for a variety of community organisations, such as the Red Cross, the Cancer Society or various Boys and Girls Clubs. (You can read more about their adventures here!)
So, what’s my part in all of this? Oh, there are many. Every week, two of the volunteers are designated House Managers – these two stay home from work all week, and they are in charge of running the house. They come up with a menu for all of our dinners, and I take them grocery shopping. They are responsible for keeping the house sparkling – cleaning the bathrooms, washing the floors, doing the laundry, and whatever else is on my four page cleaning list, as well as cooking all of our meals, preparing snacks and stuff for lunch, and baking bread daily. So, one of my jobs is to supervise them, but so far they’re such a fabulous group that I haven’t really needed to do any supervising!

I’m also in charge of communications with our work partners and our community, finding resource people to teach them various skills, helping them run their various committees, and maintaining the budget. Plus a million other little things, all day long.

Whenever I tell new people about my job, the most common reaction is “Oh, wow. You live with 11 teenagers? I could never do that, that must be the hardest part of the job.”

Actually, it’s not! This group (and probably all of them) is really wonderful, and living with them is the best part. I often look around and think of how lucky I am, that I get paid to hang out and help out with such a lovely group of individuals. (I can hear you all already – I know that things will most likely not always be wonderful. I’m prepared for that too, no delusions here, don’t worry!)

Nope, the hardest part of this job is keeping quiet. You see, Katimavik is meant to be a learning experience for all the volunteers, but it’s also turning out to be a phenomenal learning experience for me. Sometimes they do things differently than I do, sometimes I can tell they’re going to make a mistake, or sometimes they say things that maybe they shouldn’t. My biggest challenge so far is not saying anything, and letting them learn by experience, and also letting the group work out certain situations. I also need to take a step back and remind myself that my way is not the only way – I know that it’s not, and I’m always super excited to hear how other people do things, but sometimes, it’s just hard to remember – usually, the words are out of my mouth before I’ve even thought them. So, I’ve started doing this :

It’s all about picking your battles, I guess, and letting people do and learn things their way, and making sure that when I intervene, it’s going to be worth it and it’s going to stick.
We’ll see!


On the road again – Third time’s the charm

As you can see in the last couple of posts, I ended up leaving my African internship earlier than planned – it just wasn’t the right experience or place for me.

So I’m heading out again, for the third time in two years. My great escape to London in the summer of 2009 was a great failure, as was my exciting African experience of summer 2010. Based on her previous experience, my friend Cecil believes that the best time to start a new adventure is in the winter. So this is me hoping that my newest exciting project will be the right one!

Two weeks from now, I’m leaving home again for my Katimavik Project Leader training. I’ve spent the past couple of weeks explaining to everyone what Katimavik is, and I’m becoming a pro at answering this question. I usually read people and figure out where to begin, but since I’m a series of black and white words right now and you are an anoymous set of eyeballs, here the bare bones basics:

  • Katimavik is Canada’s leading youth volunteer service program for Canadians aged 17-21
  • Youth spend three months in two different Canadian communities–usually smaller, more connected communities where they can make a bigger impact
  • Youth live and travel with 10 other young people from all across Canada (plus one project leader – me!)
  • In each community, they are assigned a work placement.
  • They must learn to live in and run a house together, and plan trips and other activities while keeping in line with one of the five learning programs: Leadership, Official Languages, The Environment, Cultural Discovery and Healthy Lifestyle.
Lucky me, that I get to be there to help them along the way! I leave for Bromont, Qc in two weeks to start training, and after a short break for Christmas I’ll be heading to Moncton, Saguenay or Matane to (eagerly) await my first set of volunteers!