They don’t get a lot of whales in Saskatchewan. In fact Hailey Carleton says no whales at all.
But when she came to Nova Scotia on a 4-H exchange trip this summer, she not only went whale watching but experienced rappie pie, went to beaches, and saw waterfalls.
Most of all she made some life-long friends.
Maia Simpson-Theriault agrees about the friendship thing. She’s one of the Annapolis County 4-Hers who went west and then hosted the Saskatchewan crew in the Annapolis Valley. She loved the trip west.
“It was really interesting and really different,” she said. “It was quite less populated than here. I was like 15 minutes away from the next house. We went to the east and west part of the grasslands.”
One night they went camping in Cypress and another day visited the Al Capone Moose Jaw tunnel.
“The tunnels in Moose Jaw where Al Capone would smuggle liquor,” she explained. “It was quite cool. We did lots. Lots of campfires in the evenings to get to know everybody.”
Asked what the take-away was from the exchange experience, Simpson-Theriault didn’t hesitate.
“I think I’ve made like a family-type bond with some of the kids on this trip, so that would definitely be a thing,” she said. “Just getting to know what the rest of our country’s like because I haven’t travelled much before. That was definitely a big thing.”
The most fun Carleton had in Nova Scotia was getting to know everyone and seeing the country.
She talks whale watching, lobster, and beaches. “On our free day we saw some waterfalls,” she said.
Kristal Brown is a leader with the Lucky Stars 4-H Club and she said 4-H Canada matched the Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan groups.
“There are 28 groups across this country and the ones out west like to come east, and east like to go west. They try to match it up,” she said.
On that particular day in late July, the Valley 4-Hers and the exchange kids participated in a community project (Hands to Larger Service) including building a path at the Outside the Box Skills Program Society in Melvern Square where they spent the day.
“The path was the natural way to walk up there,” Brown said, gesturing from the driveway to the building across a lawn. “We’d end up walking through the grass and it’s hard to push the wheelchair and some of the kids were stumbling, so we made this path and it looks nice.”
And they made a farm-themed fairy garden that the Outside the Box participants can now look after, but perhaps the greatest accomplishment was the raised garden that is wheelchair accessible.
“They’ll grow catnip and dry it and then sell the catnip at the farmers’ market and at some of the stores,” Brown said in reference to the Outside the Box participants and the new raised beds.
“This is where the day program is run and I’m the executive director of that as well,” Brown said of Outside the Box, a day program for youth with special needs who are 17 to 25 years old. “It’s for them to connect with the community and transition from school to community.”
Brown said 4-H members get a lot out of the exchange program.
“There’s the whole cultural thing of coming east and doing the whale watching and the beaches, and the Maritime experience – rappie pie that we made today,” she said. “But friendship, long-lasting friends that they’ll keep in touch with for the rest of their lives. That’s probably the most important thing.”
Brown said they formed a club of interested 4-H members from various clubs, right from Hants County to Annapolis County.
“So members within a lot of different clubs joined together to form an exchange club for the purpose of the exchange and then we went to Saskatchewan,” she said. “Seeing the flatland is the first big thing, and we did a tour of the grasslands park. They do have hills in Saskatchewan. Those kinds of things were so surprising to the kids.”
And they did a community service project out west as well.
“They made some Jenga block games that will be going to the different communities they came from, and they had a supper and bingo with the fundraising money going to a bursary that was set up for a family that had lost three sons.”
And they worked with cattle, including vaccinating.
Whether it’s whale watching or riding herd, 4-H members across the country appear quick to form bonds.
“That’s one of the things with 4-H, because there’s always the similarity of talking about what projects you take, and how your 4-H club runs, it may be a little different or it may be the same as our 4-H club,” said Brown. “So there is always a good talking point for people who are just meeting each other. It’s one of the great things about 4-H.”