1) First things First: What is Katimavik? Click Here
2) My Reasons for Choosing Katimavik. Click Here
3) Oh the places I would go: My three communities and beyond. Click Here
4) My Katimavik Group: Randomly-Selected Brothers and Sisters (below)
5) But what did we do all day? My three wonderful work placements Click Here
4) My Katimavik Group: Randomly-Selected Brothers and Sisters
To say we were all different would be an indisputable understatement. We were not only different, some of us were polar opposites. Yohan was an anarchist, atheist, self-proclaimed punk from gritty Montreal, QC; Jon was a devout Christian and the proud owner of a pet goat in his hometown of boat-studded Lunenburg, NS. Courtenay was a feminist vegan from the lovely island of Victoria, BC; Ian was a smooth-talking meat-lover from our nation’s capital.
We started out as complete strangers forced to live in close quarters. In our first house in Leduc, all six girls lived in one room with three bunk beds. The five guys (who had two rooms between them) laughed at us then…but stopped laughing when they had to share an even smaller room in our even smaller St. Jovite house in the next rotation. It was compromise or bust.
For any given characteristic I might isolate, there were at least two people in the house who stood at either pole. There were introverts and extroverts, Francophones and Anglophones, conservatives and liberals, neat-freaks and pack-rats, city slickers and small-town kids. Still, to be fair, there was usually a continuum: shades of grey along which to have countless meetings about empathy.
You probably assume that we wanted to kill each other.
I’m not going to lie: sometimes we really gnawed at each other’s sanity; having overheated bitch-fests about day-to-day minutia. Some days were harder than others. On the good days we broke into spontaneous song or dance, erupted in echo chambers of laughter and wrote small notes of appreciation to one another. On tough days we locked horns about everything from religion and politics to how long, exactly, showers should take in the morning. On the really bad days, certain people wanted to go home…or figure out how to make somebody else go home.
In short, as in any situation of extreme diversity, we were constantly forced to overcome our differences and function as a team. Each one of us represented some aspect of our culture, country and generation and together we had to do more than co-exist—we had to co-operate. People who had initially irritated the hell out of each other (me and Mike, for instance) ended up reaching the deepest level of friendship and appreciation.
Looking back, I realize that every single person in the group taught me an invaluable lesson. There is no way I can convey how much each one of my brothers and sisters—which is how we actually came to refer to one another—meant to me…even the ones that insisted on stock-piling random and bizarre items in front of their bunk-beds or sprinkling baby-powder all over the bathroom so no one would smell their “business”.
I could easily write an entire blog post about each of them but there is so much to say about what we accomplished as a group. Thinking about how many things made us dissimilar, consider the following list of ways we were able to improve the lives of others by working together:
- Rotating as house managers, we cooked and cleaned for the entire house. Some of us had never grocery-shopped or cooked in our lives and suddenly we had to shop for and feed 11 others with diverse dietary needs.
- In the first month together, we decided to participate in “Head for a Cure” for the Canadian Cancer Society. All 11 of us, and our project leader, would shave our heads for cancer research if we raised more than $5000 dollars before leaving Alberta. This was our idea, not Katimavik’s.
- We did bake sales, car washes, door-to-door solicitations, etc, for our cancer research project. Everyone pushed their comfort level in order to contribute. Again, these were activities that we ourselves came up with and paid for with our Katimavik leadership budget.
- We not only met but surpassed our $5000 goal and had our heads shaved at Leduc’s city hall where the mayor, the residents, and local media came to support us. Some katimavikers from other groups and local high school kids helped us fundraise and also decided to shave their heads.
- Outside of our day-to-day work placements, we did several weekend gigs as volunteers, like running Halloween carnivals or collecting canned food for the hungry
- At one ski event in Mont Tremblant, at 5:00 am, we shovelled up a hill so steep that we had to crawl halfway up and drive our shovels in to keep from slipping. We then broke the snow all the way up and shouted encouragement at one another. By the time we reached the top we watched the sun rise and bath the city in pink and orange. It was so worth it.
- On our own initiative, we helped fundraise, collect equipment, empty out, paint and re-open an obsolete weight room at Bathurst High School.
- We tirelessly promoted Katimavik to other young people, trying to raise awareness of this amazing opportunity to give and grow so much.
There are several more examples but these capture the essence of service and community that we worked so hard to cultivate. My point in writing all this is to express that we were able to agree on so many things in spite of all our different vantage points.
They say Katimavik is a microcausm of Canada in many ways. Because the participants are randomly selected, and because they come from every geographic region and background, a Katimavik house is kind of like a Canada house. They keep telling us young people should look up to our elders…but I wonder if randomly selected middle-aged men and women (who are perhaps more set in their ways) would have been able to come together like we did.
After the program, for my 20th birthday, seven of my group members and one project leader came to surprise me and spend the weekend…from as far West as Vancouver, BC, and as far East as Lunenburg, NS. The bonds were that strong. I myself have been to Ottawa and Winnipeg to visit them, and have hosted katimavik peers here in Toronto so many times that I’ve lost count.
This is more than friendship—non-corny endings be damned!—this is family.