- Elizabeth Cohoe
ROTARY REACHES OUT TO INDIGENOUS COMMUNITIES
You might think that a 100-year-old organization could be dated and unchanging, but Rotary continues to evolve and adjust to our changing world. Rotarians are dedicated to service and are always looking for new ways that we can make life better for humanity everywhere.
The Rotary Club of Cataraqui-Kingston was founded in 1985 and, for many years, was dedicated to service projects here in the Kingston area and in other countries where there was need. In 2017, we acknowledged that there were needs to be addressed outside of Kingston but still within Canada. That led to the formation of our “National Committee”.
While most of the club’s focus is on our local community, we started to consider projects that would benefit Canada’s Indigenous communities. The club has since supported various projects in Canada’s Arctic and as far west as Manitoba, as well as within Ontario.
We first learned about the Pikangikum First Nation, located in Northwestern Ontario, through a former OPP officer living in the Kingston area. The need there is great, particularly in relation to their youth. Our club took action by connecting with two members of the Rotary Club of Simcoe who had been traveling to this Indigenous community and had formed a relationship with area residents.
A number of organizations were involved, including the OPP and New Hope Bikes. The latter is a Hamilton-based registered charity and social enterprise that seeks to get more people on affordable, reliable bicycles and provide employment and job training opportunities for young people. This project started in 2018 and consisted of building bike trails and a pump track, and teaching mountain-biking skills to the young people of Pikangikum. A shipping container was purchased to become the new home of a bike repair shop. A group of youth were trained in bike mechanics and volunteers shared their love of biking.
Following the forest fire evacuation during the summer of 2019, there was a need to provide meaningful activities and structure for their youth. Activities like a canoe trip were planned and a grant from our club provided food. We also made it possible for young people to be paid for a summer job in the bike repair shop.
This is but one example of what is taking place: the Cataraqui Club reaching out beyond the City of Kingston. On an ongoing basis our National Committee reviews possible projects that could benefit from Rotary involvement, and others are already in the works for the future.
The club would like to hear from community members who are interested in joining with us in this kind of service. To connect, visit our website at www.ckrotary.org, where you can see other great things that Rotary makes possible.