Spending just a few months exploring Canada changed Leah Jensen’s life.
The 20-year-old from Toronto just returned from participating in the Katimavik program, a government-funded program that gives youth ages 17-21 the opportunity to travel the country.
“My memories are just so positive, being totally disconnected from my normal lived in day to day routine,” she said. “It was a few months out of my life, but I feel I grew up so much and learned so much and experienced and saw so much.”
Jensen worked in Calgary, Burnaby, B.C, and Ottawa. Jensen said she’d encourage other young people to be more active.
“I camped under the stars, surrounded by mountains in Jasper, Alberta; hiked to the top of a Rocky Mountain and looked out at all the other mountaintops; swam in a hot spring; learned how to crochet hats and how to make my own bread,” she said. “I learned how to speak French as well.”
Since Katimavik is funded through the government, youth do get to travel for free, but while in different provinces they are set up in placements where they volunteer at different businesses.
“When I was in Calgary, I had a placement with an eco store that was run through a non-profit environmental organization called Green Calgary,” Jensen said. “Once a week I also volunteered with a good life community bike shop, which was also a non-profit organization that targeted community members to live more sustainably through using their bikes more and educated them on how to maintain that.”
Katimavik was created in 1977 by Jacques Hébert, with the help of his friend Pierre Elliot Trudeau, Canada’s prime minister at the time. Katimavik, which means “meeting place” in the Inuktitut language, heavily focuses on environmental education, eco-friendly living, as well as sustainability.