by Barb Duncan
Did you belong to the 4-H Club when you were a kid? After all these years, it’s still going strong. In fact, this year the youth organization is celebrating 100 years in Canada. Young people aged nine to 21 have been “learning by doing” the unique program for a century and today 4-H is as committed as ever to helping kids develop life and leadership skills. Its focus is on community involvement and its approach is based on hands-on learning.
In the Ottawa area, over 200 kids belong to 4-H and take part in activities ranging from digital photography and cooking with apples to square dancing and making pizza. Kelly Barclay is president of the Carleton 4-H Association and she says the club offers a great way for youth to make new friends, learn new skills and join in fun activities. In her words, “There’s something to do in 4-H right through the year.” And unlike many youth programs and sports, there are no exorbitant fees for lessons or equipment. “It doesn’t cost a lot to do 4-H,” she notes. “It’s the biggest bang for your buck.”
She should know. Kelly has been active in the club for years. “I was talked into it by a neighbor who was involved,” she explains. “Sixteen years later I’m still doing it.” It’s not uncommon for former 4-H members to pass on their experience to a new generation by joining again as volunteer leaders; parents often join as volunteers too. The longrunning organization continues to thrive thanks to committed volunteers, who are always screened and trained.
There are plenty of incentives to get involved. Not only does 4-H change young lives and help create future leaders, it also provides opportunities for the adults to learn, share their expertise and connect with others. Each club is made up of at least six members and two volunteer leaders. Together, they choose a topic of interest and explore it. The topics, called projects, range from drama, woodworking and crafts to livestock, field crops and farm safety. Members learn about their chosen topic during 4-H meetings and at the start of each meeting, they recite the pledge that explains what those four Hs are about:
In April, a local event is taking place to mark 4-H Canada’s milestone. Called Celebrate 4-H’s 100th Birthday, it’s at the Carp Fairgrounds April 13 and it features demonstrations, hands-on activities, cake and balloons, plus a showcase of 4-H clubs. Occurring at the same time, a national 4-H citizenship seminar will bring delegates here from across Canada. For details about 4-H and the celebration, see www.4-h-canada.ca and www.4-hontario.ca.