The Katimavik Youth Program and the Neil Squire Society

For over two years, the Burnaby office of the Neil Squire Society has provided volunteer opportunities for numerous young people in the Katimavik Youth Program (new window). Since September of this year, that relationship has grown to include the Neil Squire Society offices in Ottawa, Fredericton and Moncton .

The Katimavik Youth Program (new window) is a nationwide program that has been in existence since 1977. Participants aged 17 to 21 spend either 6 or 9 months living with nine other youth and volunteering in 3 different regions of Canada.

According to the Katimavik Youth Program (new window) , the program has three main objectives:

  1. To contribute substantially to the personal, social and professional development of the participants
  2. To promote community service
  3. To offer a diverse experience fostering a better understanding of the Canadian reality

These objectives are achieved through volunteer employment with local non-profit organizations in various cities across Canada. Katimavik Youth Program (new window) are first given a skills appraisal to determine the right balance between what they can do and what they are interested in learning.

When first coming to a new city, the Youths are given a local orientation, a tour of the local work partners, and finally interviews with the organizations they find interesting. They then spend about 3 months volunteering for a non-profit before moving on to another Canadian community.

At the Neil Squire Society, volunteers are placed in either our Computer Comfort program or our Employ-Ability program, depending on their skill set and interests. We find that Computer Comfort is often a good fit for them, as most youths today tend to be very computer literate—the Computer Comfort program involves teaching basic computer skills one-on-one to a person with a physical disability.

Of course, every Katimavik volunteer (new window) is different and brings something unique to the table. We do our best to encourage these diverse talents.

A good example of this is the story of Neil Squire Society volunteer Ben, a Katimavik Youth (new window) , who in 2008 made a video about the Neil Squire Society. Distance learning Coordinator Chad Leaman liked the video so much he submitted it to the 2008 Summit Information Communication Technology Conference (new window) , where it won 1st Prize! This kind of encouragement cannot help but have a positive influence on the life of a young person.

Katimavik Volunteer ChrisCurrently, the Neil Squire Society is pleased to be working with Chris, an 18 year old recent high school graduate from outside of St. Johns Newfoundland who dreams of someday attending the National Theatre Conservatory in Montreal (new window). Chris applied early to the Katimavik program (new window) , before he was eligible, because at the time he was feeling somewhat directionless and thought that this would be an interesting way to find his path. Two years later, he is one month into the 6 month program at Katimavik (new window) , and though he now already has a plan, he feels that this experience is helping him find the confidence and leadership skills he needs to make his goals of directing theatre a reality. He also likes the adventure and connections he is making through this experience.

This partnership has been positive for the Neil Squire Society as well. As Employ-Ability Program Coordinator Chris Wright puts it, “It has been refreshing and thrilling to see the engagement and sense of community these kids bring to our offices. They’re still young enough that they don’t know their boundaries or the possibility of failure; they embrace our clients when there is a very good possibility they have never experienced or known people who deal with the wide variety of issues our clients deal with. The young people look past where others see disabilities and see abilities and the potential for the future.” In addition to that, it is estimated that Katimavik Youths (new window) will provide us with approximately $60,000 a year in services when compared to employees making minimum wage. For a non-profit organization that’s a huge help, not to mention the inspiration these energetic young people bring to our clientele.

If you ask anyone at the Neil Squire Society, they’ll have something positive to say about their experience with the Katimavik Youths (new window). We look forward to working with the Katimavik Youth Program (new window) for many years to come.