“It was fantastic! I loved it!” gushed Vicky Tremblay of Howick 4-H, a feeling shared by Huntingdon 4-H’s Melissa Nieuwenhof: “It was really engaging and stimulating!” The two volunteers drove together to Ottawa for the 2023 4-H Canada Leadership Summit held from April 28 to 30.
The pair joined about 160 delegates from across the country, including 4-H Quebec’s executive director, youth representative, and eleven fellow leaders from la belle province. Among those were two other volunteers with Valley roots: Gillian MacDougall, a former member of the Ormstown club, who was recently recognized as the provincial leader of the year for her efforts on behalf of Shawville 4-H; and Erin Scoble, who grew up in Howick 4-H before moving to the Eastern Townships where she now leads the Richmond 4-H club square dancing project.
“We had the most engaging public speaker, Benjamin Houltberg,” said Nieuwenhof, who continued that the developmental scientist and family therapist “was amazing talking about relationship culture,” and how important it is “to ensure that each child feels they’re being seen, heard, and understood” in order to create bonds that develop trust.
The Huntingdon volunteer was equally impressed by the presentation of Fahd Alhattab, a founder of the leadership development agency Unicorn Labs. Coming from a background as an at-risk immigrant from a low-income family, Alhattab went on to raise more than one million dollars for charities, founded a camp for underprivileged youth, and was awarded Canada’s Top 20 Under 20 Award for his dedication to community. Nieuwenhof said he was an example of resilience, of “how one person can impact a community,” and she would like to see him invited to speak to students at Chateauguay Valley Regional High School.
Apart from the presentations, the informal networking was another highlight for Nieuwenhof who said, “We made friends for life.” The sentiment was echoed by Tremblay who spoke of the volunteers from Russell, Ontario: “We formed a really good bond, sharing club experiences. We were like a bunch of teenagers sending each other friend requests.” They’re hoping to get their clubs together in the future for an exchange. The Howick 4-H’er also described meeting “people from Terre-Neuve to B.C.” and the value of connecting with other leaders to discuss strengths and challenges and share solutions, noting that it is “so different, how they manage each club across the country.” She adds, “We have to realize that 4-H is more than cows and square dancing; the possibilities are endless.”
Tremblay was energized by “the pride of everyone wearing the clover” and “to hear how much people were laughing.” She went on to joke, “Even the rain was perfect, so I didn’t feel guilty about missing the farm work.”