Haily Maio

Posted on April 15th, 2013

University Student, St. Francis Xavier (Development Studies & Gender Studies), Antigonish, NS
Cedarbough Ontario Ranger, 2007
 Although I anticipated that my summer as an Ontario Ranger would change my life, it did so in a way I never thought possible. It took a 27-hour train ride to get up to the camp, and the experiences I gained there still shape the way I learn and experience life.
 
I will always have memories of the work that we did, like spending a day trudging through the mud to corduroy a trail for the upcoming dog-sledding season, or preparing the salmon spawning beds (where you needed a team of at least seven to be working together, completely in unison, otherwise it just wouldn’t work). I recall spending entire days clearing and brushing trails, frustrated and tired, only to experience the utter satisfaction of seeing the change you had made on your walk back.

As a Ranger I gained skills in leadership, communication, teamwork and conflict resolution.  Most of all, I gained self-confidence.  Before that summer, if you asked me what I would be doing with my life, I would have told you I had no idea. The Ontario Ranger program made me into an activist, through an understanding of the importance of protecting the environment, of sharing other peoples’ cultures and through learning what it meant to truly practice respect. It was at Rangers that I first learned about First Nations issues, and residential schools; something that shocked me due to the fact that I had grown up not even five minutes from a reserve. 
My experience within the program also provided me a space to step back from my family life and organize my thoughts. Coming from a low-income family, with an abusive father, it is very rare that you get the chance to leave and reflect before going back. The positive space provided through the Ranger program allowed me to regain my self-confidence. Sometimes all you need is a home away from home in order to be given a final push to succeed and believe in yourself.

Youth programs like Rangers have been proven to effectively mitigate the effects of socioeconomic status, by creating a platform to diminish inequalities based on class and location.  For this reasons youth programs are seen in Canada as helping marginalized youth, such as Aboriginal peoples and youth from low-income families. However, the benefits of programs like Ontario Rangers extend far beyond these marginalized groups. For example, programs like Rangers have proven effective in bridging the gaps between regions, specifically the ever-present divide between rural and urban areas. This is why programs like Ontario Rangers are so important: They allow people from all different backgrounds to come together to share the same experiences. 


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This blog is an online campagin against the closure of the Ontario Ranger Program. If you are interested in contributing please email us at: friendsoftheorp@gmail.com.
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