Hands to larger service

A new 4-H program sends youth leaders to do community work across the country

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Travelling to Canada’s east coast to work with like-minded small-town and rural people and contributing to a community project sounds like the perfect summer job for Peel Region’s Nicole French.

But to the leadership at 4-H Canada, the opportunity to set up a pilot project under the newly formed Canada Service Corps, one of 10 organizations in Canada to do so, sounded like making good on the club’s long-standing pledge “Hands to Larger Service.”

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4-H Canada has created the Hands to Larger Service project, to provide opportunities for senior 4-H members to travel to different parts of the country and build their leadership skills.

The promise of using “hands to larger service” is also the community service aspect of the 4-H pledge, and so it made sense to name a project after it.

Why it matters: 4-H Canada has created new opportunities for senior members by piggy backing on a federal government youth initiative.

French, a veteran of 65 4-H projects, who has served as the organization’s ambassador for the Peel region and Ontario overall, said she is excited to build on her nine years of experience with 4-H when she travels to Barrington, N.S., in August. The plan is to build a picnic shelter on the site of the Barrington Municipal Exhibition.

This year’s “Big Little Ex” is scheduled for Aug. 16-19 in the town on Nova Scotia’s southern coastline.

“I am really excited about this project and how it will not only promote 4-H but give the community something it needs,” French said.

Other Ontario 4-H participants chosen through an application process were Ally Spielmacher, Leah Haan and Emelia Huff.

French told Farmtario she applied because she has a passion for giving back to the community.

“Through this program I have this amazing opportunity to impact communities across the country.”

The four Ontario youth are among 24 participants chosen from across the country.

According to 4-H Canada program director Erin Smith, the long-running club-to-club model sees groups of eight-to-10 4-Hers travelling for two weeks in summer to another part of the country, then having a group from their host region returning later in the season for their own excursion. Each club-to-club exchange features some kind of community betterment project.

Smith noted 2018 serves as a developmental year for Canada Youth Corps, with federal government administrators aiming to identify best practices from the 10 pilot projects selected before fully implementing and funding the program in the summer of 2019.

Funded through the department of Employment and Social Development, the goal, according to information sent out in conjunction with a program launch is to “encourage young Canadians to get involved in service to their communities and gain valuable skills and experience that will benefit them in every aspect of life.”

Smith added that in this developmental year for Canada Service Corps, the role of the youth service leaders is even more important. The program administrators will be looking to the participants for insight into what the final version will look like.

“Their ideas will directly shape the initiative, and help to ensure it meets the needs and priorities of young people once it is fully implemented,” Smith said.

About the author

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Stew Slater operates a small dairy farm on 150 acres near St. Marys, Ont., and has been writing about rural and agricultural issues since 1999.

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