PROVIDENCE BAY—Founded in 1830, the Community of Christ Church has always set great store on music and the Sunday services include several songs from the church’s songbook. Recently there were even more songs during the Sunday ceremony as 17 participants from the Canada Youth Forum Exchange Program entertained parishioners with songs in a mix of Nigerian and Zulu languages as well as English and explained that they are asking, in the songs, “for God to be with us, to walk with us in everything we do. Things are better when God is in the room,” they said as they sang and showed the flags of their countries.
The young women, from Kenya, Tanzania and Canada, were on the Island for the weekend and stayed at the Auberge Inn.
“Without the support and the help of the church, we would not be able to host such a large group,” hostel owner Nathalie Gara-Bovina told church members and guests at a post-service luncheon as she went on to thank the church ladies for their work in preparing the meal. Ms. Gara-Bovina explained that the youth members had been busy during their time on Manitoulin and had hiked the Cup and Saucer Trail, visited Bridal Veil Falls and carved pumpkins as well as attended workshops. “This just shows that things can take place after the ferry stops running,” she added.
The Youth Forum Program is an international curriculum based in Montreal and has been in existence since 1971. There are 21 exchange programs across Canada and over 30 partner countries. With the program, Youth Leaders in Action, the young women spend three months in a Canadian community and three months in an exchange country. The focus of the program is cross cultural learning and understanding with an emphasis on gender equality and environmental substantiality. This particular undertaking started at a YWCA camp in Torrence, Ontario and then moved to Sudbury where every volunteer has a placement and gains enriching experiences with the YMCA/YWCA, the Art Gallery of Sudbury, the Junction Creek Stewardship, the Lake Laurentian Conservation Authority, Science North, the Sudbury Women’s Centre, the Sexual Assault Support Centre, Rethink Green and the Aids Network, among others. Sudbury has been a host community for seven years and volunteer Maria Saginaw observed that she really likes her host family.
“They are awesome,” she stated as she added that she was really enjoying her time with the group. Kaitlin Tiakow of the Yukon was also excited to be part of the youth initiative. “I saw the Canada World Youth (CWY) people in my community where they were hosted by a Ukrainian group,” she said, “and I became interested in the program. I am so excited to be going to Tanzania.”
Loreena Football of the Northwest Territories will be going to Africa for the second time and is learning about environmental issues. “There are lots of workshops and seminars,” she explained. “I want to make a change and I am actually doing it now.”
Eliza Mushi is from Tanzania and is a project leader for CWY as is Shaheen Lotum, who is originally from Saskatchewan. “The women’s exchange program is unique” they explained as there are eight Canadians, five people from Kenya and four from Tanzania and they stay with host families for the purpose of cross cultural integration.
The trip to Manitoulin came mid project and was a chance for the volunteers to see something outside of the host community. The members do everything for themselves while on the Island including cooking and cleaning and have a real sense of community by visiting Providence Bay.
Reverend Weston Leeson is the pastor of the Community of Christ Church and services are held every Sunday at 11 am.