The alarm sounds and my body rolls over suddenly and I catch myself right before I fall off the top bunk. My eyes snap open and I look around at the other bunks to see if my fellow volunteers have begun their day or not. The room is empty like usual as I’m always the last one awake. I jump off the bed onto the floor below and get my clothes ready for the morning and then wait for the washroom which is almost always occupied at this hour which is expected when living in a house with 11 other people.
I’m a part of Katimavik, a government sponsored program that takes youth from all across Canada and move them to a new community to stay with 10 other teenagers and volunteer while constantly educating the participants to realize the diversity and cultural differences around them. The program also focuses on initiatives such as living green, sustainability and healthy lifestyle. Being an 18 year old girl from Edmonton, Alberta and straight out of high school I was unsure of which profession I would like to pursue and saw no better option than exploring Canada’s rich culture, identity and diversity while making a difference in a new community.
After I’ve dressed I move on to the dining room table where sleepy teenagers are either making their breakfasts or are already eating. Most of the volunteers are tired in the mornings as a direct consequence of staying up late the night before. Under normal circumstances, teenagers would be up late doing activities that would never fall into the constructive category but Katimavik teenagers are not just run of the mill. In our house are 4 representatives of Ontario, 2 representatives of the prairies, 4 from Quebec and 2 from the Maritimes. Staying up late becomes a priority so that we can share our different lifestyles and experiences with one another. I have already discovered that some of us have never used a dishwasher to wash their dishes, and that some from rural communities hang their clothes out to dry and therefore have never felt the warmth that a clothes dryer provides. I never imagined such conversations to be so eye-opening but they have proved to be exactly that. I assumed that since we all came from Canada we’d be 99.9% the same but I’ve been proved wrong. The more time we spend with each other the more we realize the differences in the way we talk and behave and the varying opinions and perspectives we bring to the household.
After some sort of breakfast has been put together we head out the door and into the community to our various volunteer placements. While on the short walk to work I pass by the post office and a woman picking up her mail who I’ve never met before, smiles and wishes me a good morning. At first I was confused as this is something I am not used to being from a big city like Edmonton. Friendly strangers are a rarity in the city but it’s a small difference that I’ve noticed here and can easily grow to appreciate. As well as this other aspects have made Vanderhoof a great community to volunteer In. The small town atmosphere and the willingness of the community to help us throughout our short time here has been amazing and diversity is evident as there is a strong aboriginal influence here that is not seen back home in Edmonton.
After volunteering at Neighbourhood Space I walk home to eat the meal that’s been prepared for us by the house managers. Over supper we discuss our exciting days and what we’ve learnt through our various placements. I constantly feel so enlightened as I share a house with an extremely diverse group of people from all across Canada, while living in a wonderful town and working in the community to realize the impact we all have on each other, on Canada, and our responsibility as citizens to appreciate and honour our nations diversity.