Jessica Westergaard will shortly be heading for Nanaimo and then Winnipeg as part of Katimavik, a countrywide charity dedicated to improving civic engagement and developing the youth of the country. Westergaard will be volunteering within both communities for three months for 30 hours a week while improving her life skills. Patrick Davies photo.

Lakecity youth receives a place in Katimavik

A lakecity woman is ready for six months of volunteering through the Katimavik National Experience

A young lakecity woman is ready for six months of intensive volunteering through the relaunched Katimavik National Experience.

Katimavik, which means gathering together or meeting place in Inuktitut, was first started back in 1977 with a goal to foster civic engagement and develop the youth of the community through volunteer service. That first year they mobilized around a 1,000 volunteers but since then has become a nationally funded charitable program that has had over 30,000 youth volunteer in communities across the country.

This year, one of these youths will be 21 year old Jessica Westergaard, who moved to the lakecity after a house fire last July in her hometown of Fort St. John. Her grandmother was born and raised in Springhouse, however, giving her and her family deep Cariboo roots.

Westergaard applied for Katimavik because she likes to travel but also wants to help people and when she heard that she’d be doing that in two different locations in Canada, she jumped at the opportunity.

Most people who know about it, she’s found, are older people as it lost funding back in 2008 and had to postpone its nationwide program. With it being brought back in 2018, however, she’s confident younger generations will start to recognize it as well.

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“It’s a six-month volunteer program to two communities, one French and one English. I’ll be working for a non-profit, 30 hours a week and with Truth and Reconciliation along with that,” Westergaard said. “It’s sort of like speed dating but for a job and that’s what we’ll be doing until we find a non-profit that works for us.”

She’ll be going first to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island this summer and then to Winnipeg, Manitoba in the fall where she’ll be living and working with 10 other young adults from the ages of 17 to 25 and one program leader.

Getting to know the different cultures from the area over the three months she will be spending in both communities is what excites her the most. While she doesn’t know exactly what she plans to do after the program ends, Westergaard said she’s sure she’ll know what she wants after experiencing all the program has to offer.

One of the things the program requires her to do before leaving, however, is to raise a $1,000 for additional unforeseen costs such as travel expenses to remote Indigenous communities, funds for events they plan and anything else they require. As of this interview, Westergaard had raised $150 of the $1,000 needed and said she’s open to any donations the community would like to provide. Those interested in doing so can contact her in person or via email at or by phone at 250-793-1671.

“(Programs like this) help them learn and experience things they might not already know and (build) life skills as well,” Westergaard said. “It’d be a really good opportunity for any (young) people to go and learn how to be a part of the real world.”

Westergaard intends to take in the experience in full, use it to better herself and develop every life skill she can.

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