Katimavik mourns its founding president, Jacques Hébert

    MONTREAL, Dec. 7 /CNW Telbec/ - On December 6, 2007, founding president
of Katimavik, Jacques Hébert, passed away, at the age of 84. Throughout his
life, he touched the lives of many, and will especially remain in the hearts
of over 28,000 young Canadians as the visionary founder of Katimavik, Canada's
leading national youth service program.

    Jacques Hébert created Katimavik in 1977. In a book about the program's
first year entitled Have them build a tower together, he wrote: "...in the
beginning there was a simple little idea, a tiny spark that set off a lovely
blaze because the wood was good and the wind a willing accomplice."(1) This
simple idea flourished into a full-fledged nine-month volunteer service
program for young Canadians aged 17 to 21, creating a genuine "meeting
place"(2) for generations of Canadians. This year, on its 30th anniversary,
over 1,000 young participants are taking the same route, learning valuable
skills through volunteer service, group living and contributing to
nation-building in host communities across the country.
    Although the program has been relatively successful over the years, it
has had its ups and downs. In 1986, funding of the program was cut completely,
at which time Jacques Hébert undertook a historic 21-day hunger strike in the
Senate Hall on Parliament Hill. Thousands of Canadians manifested in support
of the program, but to no avail: the program was on hiatus for eight years. It
was reinstated in 1994, thanks to the resolve of its founder and board of
    As Katimavik's executive director for the last nine years, Jean-Guy
Bigeau worked closely with Jacques Hébert and has many fond memories of their
invigorating collaboration: "Jacques was a man of passion with a steadfast
conviction that national youth service would one day become the common
experience and expectation of all young Canadians. He firmly believed that
Canadian youth are extraordinary assets to our nation, and that the earlier
they were exposed to national volunteer service, the better prepared they
would be to embrace the virtue of lifelong civic engagement".
    Up until very recently, Jacques Hébert continued to serve as an active
member of the board of directors. "In the four years I have served on the
board of directors, I have been astounded by Jacques' relentless tenacity in
keeping this program intact. He was eloquent and passionate about the work
that needed to be done to ensure that national youth service would finally
come of age in Canada", recalls the current chairman of the board, Robert
    The tremendous influence Jacques Hébert had on youth will likely continue
for years to come, as these testimonials among many hundreds from alumni
attest to:
    "He was a feisty, demanding and kind individual who impressed me with his
ability to turn strong beliefs and values into effective action. His
infectious enthusiasm, positive energy, and outstanding commitment to the
youth of Canada affected me greatly. I admired him and he influenced me to do
something significant with my life." Bruce Gilbert, project leader 1981-1983,
St.John's, NL (currently a board member)
    "Your inspiration, enthusiasm and spirit are alive and well in both past
and present participants. Thank you Jacques, your dream became my reality and
I know it continues on for others." Brian Michalofsky, 1983-1984 participant,
Mississauga, ON

    Katimavik, its board of directors, alumni, employees, friends and
community members from across the country wish to thank you, Jacques Hébert,
you have touched the lives of so many and have made this world a better place.
We will strive to keep your dream alive and continue to offer a place for
young people to serve this wonderful country.

    For those interested in posting testimonials, we invite you to visit
www.jacqueshebert.org; to read more testimonials, visit www.katimavik.org.

    (1) Have Them Build a Tower Together, Jacques Hébert, 1979
    (2) Katimavik means meeting place in Inuktitut.


    Katimavik program background:

    During their nine-month service experience, participants live in three of
the numerous Canadian partner communities, where they volunteer 35 hours a
week for a variety of non-profit organizations. Everyday life consists of
living with ten other young people from across the country, along with a
project leader. The staff member provides supervision and facilitates the
implementation of our structured learning programs through a series of
workshops and activities pertaining to leadership skills development, learning
our official languages, environmental stewardship, experiencing first-hand
about cultural diversity and integration, and also adopting a healthier
lifestyle. The intent of the program is to shape responsible citizens while
contributing to the social and economic development of Canadian communities.
For more info: www.katimavik.org

    /NOTE TO PHOTO EDITORS: A photo accompanying this release is available on
    the CNW Photo Network and archived at http://photos.newswire.ca.
    Additional archived images are also available on the CNW Photo Archive
    website at http://photos.newswire.ca. Images are free to accredited
    members of the media/

For further information:

For further information: Christine Rocheleau, communications manager,
(514) 868-0898, 1-888-525-1503, ext. 2241, Cellular phone: (514) 707-1273,

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