In April 2018, I signed up to do a volunteer project in Quebec during the summer. I followed a two-day training course which allowed me to better understand the goal of an intercultural project and the meaning of group living. At the end of the session, I decided to do a volunteer project in Sainte-Thérèse in August.
This project is the result of a partnership of over 30 years between Chantiers jeunesse and the city of Sainte-Thérèse. There was a quarry located in the center of the city before. However, thanks to the efforts of Chantiers jeunesse volunteers who worked there year after year, it has been transformed into a public park, now called the Jardin des Sources. The park is also located next to a retirement home and is very popular with the residents.
However, like any other park, the Jardin des Sources needs continuous maintenance. This is why Chantiers jeunesse volunteers, divided into two teams, continue to return to Sainte-Thérèse each summer to carry out tasks related to the maintenance of this beloved area.
As the name of the volunteer project suggests, I was part of the second group. We were mainly responsible for weeding, laying down gravel for paths and stairs and planting flowers. We performed these tasks for two weeks.
Each volunteer project also has an assigned technical expert who supervises the progress of the tasks. In our case, we worked with Thomas, an employee at the municipal government of Sainte-Thérèse, who helped us with our project. We worked with the Maison des jeunes des Basses-Laurentides as well, which is a community center for teenagers.
Normally, we would divide into two groups: one would weed while the other would lay down gravel. These were the main tasks to do on most days.
For two weeks, we worked from Monday to Friday. On the weekends, we did different activities. One Saturday, we went to Montréal by bus. We visited the Jean-Talon market and climbed Mount Royal. We also visited Little Italy, the Quartier Latin, Chinatown and a Haitian festival at the Village au Pied-du-Courant in the evening.
Another day, we visited the Parc de la Rivière-des-Mille-Îles in Laval for kayaking. We rented two group kayaks and visited several small islands. We then went for a walk in an agricultural market in Sainte-Rose.
One evening, there was a concert organized by the municipality of Sainte-Thérèse near the CEGEP where we were staying and featured a Québécois singer. Lots of people came to enjoy the outdoor show.
Moreover, an important element of an intercultural cooperative project is that volunteers from all over the world gather together to work on a development project. Such an experience gives all participants the opportunity to meet new people from different countries and learn more about their unique cultures. In our project, the volunteers were from Canada, Mexico, the Czech Republic, Italy, France, Iran and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. We cooked dishes together that often came from volunteers’ home countries. So, I learned how to cook plantains, a typical dish from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, very tasty Mexican tacos and French bread.
Finally, since 2018 marked the 30th anniversary of the collaboration between Chantiers jeunesse and the city of Sainte-Thérèse, a big celebration was planned at the end of our project. The director and the president of Chantiers jeunesse, as well as a manager from Canada Service Corps, were present. We also buried a time capsule in the Jardin des Sources at the end of the volunteer camp. It will be open 25 years after its burial, so in 2043. We put some objects that we considered characteristic of daily life in 2018.
In short, I would recommend everyone to register for a volunteer project as soon as possible. It’s truly an experience like no other. The nature of each project varies depending on its location, but the work is always beneficial for the host community, no matter where it is. Simply put, we have a lot of fun and everyone makes wonderful memories during a volunteer project.
Aidan Macpherson, Volunteer at the Sainte-Thérèse II Volunteer Project of Summer 2018