The Ambassador Beat : Mel Karpenko

Without 4-H, it’s a dream. With 4-H, it’s an experience.  

By: Mel Karpenko

I pledge my head to clearer thinking, my heart to greater loyalty, my hands to larger service, and my health to better living, for my club, my community, my country, and MY WORLD.  

Who would have guessed that what seems to many as a small-town club for farm kids, would offer youth the chance to travel 8,513km out of their comfort zone? For me, it was an incredible opportunity I was fortunate to experience through 4-H.

Imagine – You fill out the application and dream of being selected for a life changing experience. All you can do is answer the questions to the best of your ability, hit send and cross your fingers and toes.  

Skip ahead and you receive a confirmation that you have been offered the chance to interview for the 4-H Canada Going Global Exchanges program! Suddenly this is becoming very real. You are aware that there is tough competition for this opportunity and that many of the applicants are just as deserving of the position. So, you prepare and make sure to do your best. 

Suddenly, it’s the end of March, you’ve just arrived home from school and you receive an email from 4-H Canada! You hold your breath as you click on the email and you re-read each word making sure you understand it correctly. After a moment it sinks in, all your preparation has paid off. You did it, you have been selected to travel to Argentina! 

The day finally arrives to board the plane and start your adventure. (Don’t forget to check the weather before you pack! Just because it’s south doesn’t mean it’s always hot!)  When you get off the plane and are welcomed by open arms, warm houses and grateful hearts. All that’s left to do is enjoy and absorb the experience.  

Being in an unfamiliar country with an unfamiliar language leads to strong relationships being built very quickly. Anyone who has been a part of a 4-H opportunity knows that relationships developed through 4-H are unlike any other.   

There are many opportunities available to 4-H’ers through both 4-H Ontario and 4-H Canada. Each opportunity offers new experiences to learn, grow and build relationships. Sometimes the hardest part is submitting the application.  

Perth County Experiences B.C.

Written, in part, by 10 Perth County 4-H members: Phillip Koskamp, Sam Reidy, Sam Becker, Emma Francis, Natasha Klaver, Brianna Nichol, Natalie Nichol, Valarie Hamilton, Bethany Hamilton and Halle Horn.

In the summer of 2016, 10 members from Perth County, along with chaperones Marilyn Reidy and Jen Aikens were “twinned” with Deep Creek Dairy 4-H Club in Salmon Arm, B.C. as a part of the 4-H Canada Club to Club Exchange. Some of us had never flown before so this was very exciting. We stayed with our “twins” for 10 days learning about how they live, the history and culture of their region and we travelled together as a large group of 20 members and four leaders seeing and participating in some awesome activities.

Some of our highlights while we were in B.C. was the chance to enjoy a day on a houseboat on beautiful Mara Lake, riding the gondola’s at Mount Revelstoke and floating down a river in tubes near Enderby, B.C. As a part of our community service component of this exchange while we were there we worked on 250 metres of new hiking trails with the Shuswap Trail Alliance. It was great to see and learn how others live. The opportunity to see a different province was an incredible experience. Although it felt strange staying with a family we didn’t know at the beginning of our journey we can now say we have made new life-long 4-H friends. After 10 days of fun in B.C., we arrived home to rest up and prepare for the arrival of B.C. members to our great province.

We began our adventure with them doing our community service work with Habitat for Humanity in Listowel. It was hard work removing flooring, a deck and wiring out of a house that was being demolished but we now understand the great work that Habitat for Humanity does for communities around the world and the importance of volunteering in our communities. We did so many things with our “twins” to show the great area we live in. We toured a number of local dairy farms, a water buffalo farm, Bar-B-Dee elevators and we visited St. Jacobs (including a visit to an Amish farm), visited the Stratford-Perth Museum, the Costume Warehouse and the production of The Lion, the Witch and The Wardrobe at the Festival Theatre. Other highlights included a trip to Toronto to the CN Tower, a visit to the Welland Canal and Niagara Falls, including a ride on the incredible jet boats there.

Jennie Nichol had both of her daughters, Natalie and Brianna attend the exchange and said it was a great experience for them to experience a different part of Canada and to fly for the first time, something that may not have been possible without 4-H.

“They were able to learn about a part of Canada that was quite different from where we live here in Ontario and meet other kids in 4-H and learn about their experiences,” she says. “As a parent, I am really pleased that my daughters were given this opportunity.”

We learned so much about ourselves, others and so much about the great country we live in. Canada Heritage is a big contributor to this 4-H Canada exchange. The goal is for members to learn more about other provinces as well as our own region. We’re very thankful for all the generous supporters of this 4-H exchange club, everyone who supported our fundraising projects, the time the leaders took to plan our trip and, of course, our families.

2011 W. Garfield Weston Foundation 4-H International Exchange

The following post comes from 4-H alumnus Gordon Alblas. In 2011, Gordon was selected as the Garfield Weston 4-H International Exchange recipient from Ontario. The W. Garfield Weston Foundation 4-H International Exchange is a unique opportunity to learn more about agriculture and resources around the world, represent 4-H in Canada, and gain new friendships and experiences that will last a lifetime.

Funded by the W. Garfield Weston Foundation, the exchange sends 4-H delegates to various locations around the world, such as the United Kingdom, Korea and Taiwan, where they participate in a reciprocal host-family exchange for up to eight weeks in this once in a lifetime opportunity. Thanks to Gordon for sharing his exchange story!

An Opportunity of a Lifetime
By Gordon Alblas 

Gordon Alblas
Gordon hard at work in the Wales country side

Thirty eight days and 2500 pictures my United Kingdom exchange was truly amazing. In the summer of 2011 W. Garfield Weston Foundation exchange had six delegates from all across Canada participating. I was honoured to be Ontario’s delegate to the UK; what a true experience of a lifetime.

At the start of the trip of the Canadian delegates met in Toronto for an orientation meeting and to give us an opportunity to meet with the Weston foundation, our sponsor. After a jam packed day of introductions and then touring in Toronto it was time to be UK bound for the three of us. Our plane left at 6:30pm our time and landed 6:30am their time so we missed a night of sleep and we still had three hours of waiting and then four hours on a bus to get to our final destination. Needless to say we where all a little tired by the time we were picked up at the bus station in Coventry.

In Coventry we got to meet some other exchangees from Europe. We spent two days together before we were sent off to our first hosts. During the two days together we had the opportunity to tour the Warwick Castel, it is truly amazing the history in this country and the Warwick Castel is no exception to that. It was a great opportunity to see how people lived hundreds of years ago.

After the Young Farmers’ national meeting we were all “delivered” to our first hosts. The rest of the stay in the UK was all with different hosts individually. The longest that I stayed with one host family was one week, and the shortest time was one day. This gave a great opportunity to see a lot of the country in the best way possible, experiencing life through the lives of the people themselves. There is no better way to see a country then by the people that live there. The hosts that I stayed with were great, they all worked very hard to get me around to see all sorts of agriculture activities happening in their area. Almost every day of the 38 days that I was in the UK I was touring a different farm or helping out on a farm. I found this to be the best part of the trip, being able to interact with the UK farmers and learn all I could about farming in the UK. From all of the tours I had, each one taught me new things that I can take back to my farm at home to improve my farm at home.

The best part of the trip was that the hosts planned out the stay while I was with them. Most of the time I did not know what I was doing the next day or sometimes not even the day of, but to just go with the flow and not get too concerned made the trip a great success. I worked on farms one day, toured sites like Cambridge College the next, and was taking in amazing views of the Wales country side on another.

The Young Farmers in the UK is similar to both 4-H and Junior Farmers here in Canada. This was a great way to meet young people starting out farming in the UK and to learn about the challenges and opportunities that they face. I also found that there are a lot more young farmers with their own operations there then there is here in Ontario. This was a great encouragement for me being a young farmer starting out in Ontario because they have many of the same challenges to face as I do here starting out.

Last but certainly not least, are the many friends I made in the UK . Thanks to modern technology, it is possible to keep in contact with far away friends and to exchange different farming ideas. I am new to the sheep industry so the knowledge and pointers that some of the sheep farmers gave me are an invaluable resource.

The W. Garfield Weston Foundation exchange was truly an opportunity of a lifetime. I had an amazing time and learned a lot about the way of life in another culture. I was able to see and experience many new things during my stay in the UK. This was a great way to broaden my horizons not only in agriculture but also in the history of the land.

Gordon Alblas is a current 4-H alumnus. Gordon was a 4-H member for 12 years completely 63 projects including dairy, farm machinery and field crops. Gordon was also a youth leader for the Hamilton Wentworth Dairy Club.

Share Your 4-H Story4-H Ontario’s Alumni program is funded through a Promotional Partnership with Hyland Seeds, including the position of 4-H Ontario’s Coordinator, Alumni Services. Hyland Seeds is passionate about agriculture and believes in supporting the people who are deeply rooted in the agricultural industry; dedication to 4-H is proof of this commitment. Thank you Hyland Seeds!