An inuit word meaning "meeting place", Katimavik is also the name of a government youth volunteer program in Canada.

The basic idea is this: take eleven kids between the age of 17 and 21 from around the country and send them to three different cities in different provinces (staying in each one for three months each) to volunteer for local non-profits and other worthy causes desperately in need of labour (Examples include the red cross, the SPCA, local under-funded schools, parks and nature centers, youth crisis centers..), and pursue some other goals, like learning both official languages, English and French (typically a group will have 3-5 native french speakers and 6-8 native english speakers), learning about the environment, learning job skills and entrepreneurship, and learning about the regions they're sent to. Each group has an older Project Leader who supervises them, lives with them, and liases with the work sponsors and the katimavik brass. The government pays for rent and food ($5 per day per person, anyhow) and a very limited budget for recreation and pursuing the above goals, and for an allowance of $3 per day per participant. Parts who make it all the way through the nine month program (I think on average about a third of the group either drops out or is kicked out for violating one of Katimavik's seven big rules) get a $1000 "perserverence" grant.

People sign up for all sorts of reasons, the most common being "I didn't really know what to do with my life", Katimavik being an option that isn't quite work, isn't quite school, and where you don't have to worry about money for a while. Others join to learn english or french well enough to get a job in tourism, for the chance to travel across canada for free, as a parentally encouraged budget reform school (sigh), or just because it sounded cool.

Life in Katimavik is very regimented, and living with ten strange teenagers 24/7 (you get three weekends off in the whole nine months and one evening off per week, and by off I mean where there's nothing scheduled, most weeks) can drive you batty, but most people find it a very valuable and memorable experience that shapes the course of their life for years after.

Katimavik was originally started in the 70s by the amazing senator Jacques Hébert, was axed in 1986 by Mulroney (despite Hébert's hunger strike in protest), and was reinstated in 1994 and has been going ever since. The K. logo is a solid orange circle over a green bar. No one's really sure what it means, but it's everywhere. Shrug. Kind of appropriate.

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