People to Interview

July 21, 2012

This list ‘o names is both of people I’d like to interview in this lifetime as well as a list of those I have interviewed. I see it as ever-evolving and I’ll just keep adding to it as I think of people I’d like to interview and/or get to interview more people (which I’ll note by crossing their name off the list as I go).

– Leah Abramson
– Adele
– Coco Love Alcorn
– The Avett Brothers
– Ashleigh Ball (Hey Ocean)
– Bob Barker
– Martha Beck
– Isaac Brock
– Bill Bryson
– Kris Carr
– Tracy Chapman
– Billy Connolly
– Death Cab for Cutie
– Zooey Deschanel
– Ellen DeGeneres
– Ani DiFranco
– The Dixie Chicks/Natalie Maines
– Steve Earle
– Melissa Etheridge
– Will Ferguson
– Jeremy Fisher
– James Franco
– Michael Franti
– Rory Freedman
– Elizabeth Gilbert
– Sarah Gilbert
– Ryan Gosling
– Geri Halliwell
– Ben Harper
– Woody Harrelson
– Arianna Huffington
– Jack Johnson
– Jenji Kohan
– Lady Gaga
– Howard Lyman
– Dan Mangan
– Bam Margera
– Elizabeth May
– Tara McLean
– Matthew McConaughey
– Joni Mitchell
– Alanis Morissette
– Stevie Nicks
– Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne
– Mary-Louise Parker
– Joel Plaskett
– Tristan Prettyman
– Bonnie Raitt
– Paul Rudd
– Xavier Rudd
– Serena Ryder
– Jason Segel
– Steve-O
– Gloria Steinem
– Taylor Swift
– David Suzuki
– The Trews
– Shania Twain
– The Wailin’ Jennys
– Danny Wallace
– Barbara Walters
– Diane Warren
– Florence Welch
– Betty White
– Oprah Winfrey

Journalists:

– Katie Couric
– Jian Ghomeshi
– Grant Lawrence
– Will Potter
– George Stroumboulopoulos
– Barbara Walters

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Katimavik Profile

December 14, 2011

The following is what I my interview with Will Ferguson was for (my Research business profile assignment on Katimavik). It’s not perfect, but at least it exists where it didn’t two days ago.

Visionary Jacques Hébert created Katimavik in 1977, intent on unifying Canada by bringing Anglo and Francophone youth together to explore Canadian diversity.

Inuktitut for “meeting place,” Katimavik is Canada’s leading national youth volunteer service program, with each project household consisting of 11 youth aged 17 to 21 chosen as a regional representation of Canadian society.

A project leader oversees each group, sharing living space, meals and experiences with the participants on a daily basis. The project leader liaises with local community projects where each participant holds a fulltime volunteer position, as well as with regional and head offices.

The program is unique in that it covers the cost of most expenses (including program and learning activities, food, housing, and travel), with only a minimal $50 application fee and a $175 fee for accepted participants.

Hébert died in 2007, but said in his 2001 travel book “Katima…What?” that “Katimavik [was] created . . . to wrench the greatest number of young Canadians from a life that’s lousy, selfish, closed to the world, whether they’re sons of the bourgeoisie, or daughters of the unemployed, students lost in the absurd mazes of our education system, or dropouts in the midst of despair, young people who still have ideals, or apprentice drug addicts who no longer believe in anything.”

Willing to die for his cause, Senator Hébert went on a 21-day hunger strike in the lobby of the Canadian senate in 1986 after federal funding was cut to the program. The funding cuts came at a time when the program had just expanded, from about 1000 participants in 1985 to 5000 the following year.

Hébert’s friends Jean Chrétien and Walter Baker came to his rescue, creating a private non-profit corporation to raise the necessary funds to keep the program going, though it would be reduced to an outdoor recreation training program until funding was reinstated in 1994.

Funding for the program continues to be mainly government-supported through the Department of Canadian Heritage, but plans are underway to diversify through corporate and private partnerships after accepting a multi-year financial deal that reduced resources. Downsizing certain aspects of the program followed, including closing two of five regional offices.

Katimavik has seen many changes in its 34 years. Starting with 33 participants its first year, lore has it that early participants had to build their own beds and some even claim to have worked at building their own houses while living in tents.

In just the past decade Katimavik has seen incarnations of seven- and nine-month programs taking participants to three different provinces, and has transformed into four six-month programs geared toward specialized experiences.

Today’s program choices are Cultural Discovery and Civic Engagement, Ecocitizenship and Active Living, Katimavik Horizons (wherein participants tailor the program to their group’s inclination based on Katimavik’s main objectives), and Second Language and Cultural Identity.

All projects seek to engage youth volunteers in experiential learning focused on civic engagement, healthy lifestyle choices, official languages, cultural discovery and environmental stewardship – skills meant to help them adapt and integrate back into their communities as civic participants after the program is complete.

Arguably Katimavik’s most famous past participant, author Will Ferguson completed the program in 1985, just shy of the political hoopla.

“My career path changed dramatically from political science to fine arts,” Ferguson said over the phone from his home in Calgary.

Forgoing his initial intent to pursue politics, which Ferguson almost laughed about today, Katimavik afforded him the chance to travel for the first time and exposure to the Canadian experience outside his small Northern Alberta town. Ferguson soon developed a love for Canada and travel that has since been channeled into several books, including “I Was a Teenage Katima-victim” based on his stint in the program.

“As time goes on and you look at the big picture, it’s a great experience,” he said in contrast of the scathing tone of his Katimavik memoir, which was based on his 19 year-old self’s voice as written in the journals his first project leader urged him to keep.

Ferguson said he still recommends the program to youth, and recently went to dinner with Theresa Mitchell, Katimavik’s Director of Resources Development, to discuss the program’s future.

Will Ferguson is among the 30,000 participants who have gone through the program since its inception, but Katimavik’s impact reaches much further than just its participants. Katimavik has changed countless lives for the better through interaction with work sponsors, community members, billet families, employees, and those who participants have volunteered to serve, whether they realize it or not.

Too Legit to Quit

December 13, 2011

So today was an awesome day (well mostly, but I’ll leave out the non-awesome).

First I woke up to a little write up about Tara and I on the VegNews website in the VegNewsDaily section, then I went to the library (always a good time), and this afternoon I got to realize a journalistic dream by interviewing author Will Ferguson.

I’ve wanted to write for VegNews since the first day I happened upon the June 2006 issue at the Chapters in Langley, so I always thought the first time I would see my name published in the magazine or on their website would be during the internship I’ve been planning on doing at their San Francisco headquarters ever since. Obviously this was a wonderful surprise to wake up to on a Monday morning.

So far we have three orders for Holiday Baskets for Harmless (2 of which are pretty huge), and today I began a dialogue with a producer about us bringing a film screening to Vancouver.

Dreams just kept coming true today, as I got a chance to talk to Will Ferguson, who was on my list of people to interview (which now that I think of it, should probably be a blog post in and of itself).

I’ve been a fan of Will Ferguson’s for a long time now, and have most of his books, including “I Was a Teenage Katima-victim,” which is about his experience in Katimavik. It’s also what inspired the interview, as I’m profiling the organization for an assignment for my Journalism Research class.

I wanted to know how the program shaped his life after he completed it, and it turns out it shaped his life in a big way.

Having never traveled before Katimavik, Ferguson was exposed to the Canadian experience outside his small Northern Alberta town and soon developed a love for Canada that has since been channeled into several books about trekking across this vast land of ours.

Initially intent on a career in politics, which Ferguson almost laughed about today, Katimavik redirected him to instead pursue a life in the arts.

Ferguson said all of his traveling and travel writing can be traced back to Katimavik, and that he was prompted to write the 1998 memoir by his publisher asking him for more Canadiana in the wake of his breakout success with his first book, “Why I Hate Canadians.” He recalled that he had notebooks documenting his time in the program, as he said, “our first Project Leader was really adamant that we keep a journal.”

So thank you, “Joyce,” wherever you are. The book really is an hilarious account of what life is like in Katimavik that other Katima-victims can relate to.

Will said he was torn about if he should remain true to the surprising bitterness and anger he found in his journals on closer look, or write from the perspective of time lapsing and seeing it as a great experience in the big picture. He decided to stick to his 19 year-old self’s experience, and anyone who has been in Katimavik and has read the book would likely attest that he made the right decision.

A lucky Katimavik group had the chance to dine with Ferguson after a writing event in Toronto he spoke at a couple of months back, and he said he was struck by how “Kids today are much cooler and more put together than we were” when he did the program in the 1980s, and that he noticed this group was “very articulate . . . very together. They got along as adults rather than kids.”