Editor's Note: I realize the word missionary is a loaded term that can cause some stomachs to turn amongst my readership. Please read further down for some clarification on why I dared to use it.
To be honest, I didn't even really know what the program was about until Sunday when I heard an excellent report on CBC radio's C'est La Vie about it. Click the link to hear first hand from participants.
Here's an overview of the program from the Wikipedia:
Each Katimavik program consists of groups of 11 youths aged 17 to 21 who are drawn from all across Canada. They travel together to one or two different places in Canada for a period of six months. During the 2007-2008 program year there were 99 such groups spread across Canada. Each participant volunteers for about 40 hours per week and completes a learning program that focuses on Canada's official languages, protecting the environment, leadership, cultural diversity, and leading a healthy lifestyle. Each year, more than 500 community non-profit organizations are assisted by Katimavik volunteers doing full-time work for them. Katimavik has volunteer projects in all 10 Canadian provinces and 3 territories.Now this sounds like a worthwhile program. Perhaps one of the most worthwhile youth programs I've ever heard of. It's good on so many levels that it's hard to even know where to begin. It allows youth that want to help people across Canada do so, it promotes mutual discovering, education and understanding between different cultures, language groups, age groups and localities. It broadens the horizons of kids and gives them the gap year(s) that is becoming more and more popular among the more privileged youth today. Finally, these kids aren't sitting in their parents' basement playing Xbox, they're out helping people and communities 40 hours a week for $2 a day after possibly paying hundreds out of their own pockets to be able to participate!
And on top of all this this program is completely secular. It's helping for the sake of helping - Secular Humanism in action. There are other secular programs out there like United Planet, but nothing as uniquely Canadian as Katimavik.
|First Alliance Baptist Church in Calgary.|
About the title. I used the word missionary in the post title and it didn't actually strike me as odd until now. I think that there is no equivalent secular term for it. There is no word that conveys the same force of conviction, self-sacrifice and sheer zeal to help others as missionary. Charity worker just doesn't pack the same punch. Maybe I'm way off-base on this one and it's just my Catholic upbringing clouding my judgement. But if the goal of this program is to help fellow humans then perhaps it is a Humanist Mission in the broadest sense of the word humanist.
There is a Liberal petition to save the program on the web here. Although I would suggest contacting your Conservative member of Parliament.