| Sep 17, 2009

Back to HomeFeature Article - September 17, 2009 Canada World Youth at Lancaster's ResortBy Jeff Green

L to R: Ken Lancaster; Canada World youth participants Anne, Scott, Maggy and Solomon;  Linda Lancaster

Eleven young people from Kenya flew in to Toronto last week. For most, if not all of them, it was not only their first trip to Canada, it was the first time they have left Kenya, and their first flight.

Organizers with Canada World Youth and their partners at KENVO, an environmental organization that works in the Kikuyu escarpment forests in Kenya, are used to dealing with the culture shock that the Kenyan youth are dealing with, and they have a perfect solution: bring them to Lancaster's resort on Mississagagon Lake in North Frontenac.

Ken and Linda Lancaster have hosted many orientation camps for Canada World Youth and their global partners over the past five years, and they are more than happy to show some northern hospitality to young people from across Canada and around the world.

It all started for them when their son Derek participated in a Canada World Youth exchange in 2003-2004.

“The program was perfect for him,” said Ken Lancaster, “and he brought his enthusiasm for it to us, so when he said that our resort would be a good place to hold orientation camps and retreats, we jumped at the chance.”

Over the past five years, Lancaster's has hosted groups from Honduras, Cuba, Peru, as well as Kenya.

For five days last week, 11 Kenyan and 11 Canadian youth between the ages of 19 and 24 were guests of the Lancasters as they became comfortable with the program and each other.

Canada World Youth exchanges are six-month programs. Three months are spent doing volunteer work in each country, and participants billet with families in the host communities. As they were leaving Lancaster's last Saturday, September 12, the group was headed to Ottawa, where they will remain until December.

The 22 participants were getting accustomed to their new partners. The evening before, they had learned whom they would be living and working with for the next six months. One Canadian and one Kenyan will share a room in the house of a host family for three months in Ottawa and three months in Kenya.

Scott, a Canadian and Solomon, a Kenyan will be living together. Scott is an Ottawa University student, who is a veteran of the Katimavik program, and Solomon has been working with KENVO for two years.

Because the exchange is with KENVO, it is part of the environmental stream of Canada World Youth, so the work and conversations that will be dominant for participants will have that focus.

“One goal of the program is to help us to become global citizens, which is something we can learn from the communities we visit and from each other,” said Scott.

Solomon said KENVO creates a lot of environmental awareness with its programs that the Canadians will be able to learn from. For himself, the first few days in Canada brought exposure to some realities that he had never considered. “It is still light at 7:30 in the evening; that I had never seen. I also had my first experience with swimming. We also don’t usually eat raw vegetables back home, but they serve them here,” he said.

Anne Wangari Kimende, who has also been working with KENVO, said she is very interested in this kind of cultural learning. “I really look forward to learning skills and knowledge,” she said.

Anne's counterpart, Maggy Gravelle Caron, is a recent graduate of the University of Montreal's Criminology department. She is planning to work in the rehabilitation-intervention child protection field after the program is over. “For me, the cultural exchange and exposure to different realities will help me in my job afterwards. It is also a chance to do something totally different after university.”

As the 22 participants prepared to leave Lancaster's to continue their adventure, Ken and Linda Lancaster were determined to provide something their new Kenyans friends are certain to need. “Before you leave, you better grab winter jackets from the table over there,” Ken said.

The Lancasters will be able to take it easy for a while now that the Canada World Youth group is gone and the summer traffic is dying down. “We are having 44 coming the day after Thanksgiving, 22 Canadians and 22 Cubans. But I'll say this, we really enjoy them - the youth, the coordinators, the facilitators, all of them.” Ken said.

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