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Elizabeth Lougheed, left, and Victoria Koop Pelletier at Amicamp, a MCC supported summer camp at Camp Peniel in the Laurentians north of Montreal. Nina Linton

Elizabeth Lougheed, left, and Victoria Koop Pelletier at Amicamp, a MCC supported summer camp at Camp Peniel in the Laurentians north of Montreal. Nina Linton

Youth participate in cycle of sharing in Montreal

Gladys Terichow
July 30, 2009

MONTREAL, Quebec--Two young women here have seen firsthand how a person’s actions can inspire and lead to a cycle of sharing.

Elizabeth Lougheed and Victoria Koop Pelletier, both 19, coordinate a summer service program for Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Quebec that not only meets important community needs, but gives youth a hands-on, collaborative approach to learn more about the effects of poverty and marginalization.

The program, Learning thru Service, provides short term work placements with charitable organizations in Montreal that provide a diverse range of services for people experiencing poverty.

Through working in food banks, soup kitchens, hospices and refugee housing projects, youth gain valuable insights about the effects of poverty and marginalization.

At the end of the day Lougheed and Koop Pelletier help participants reflect on their experiences and learning through biblical study.

“We sometimes hear youth say that community service is not for me,” said Koop Pelletier. “They say, ‘why would I give my free time—I don’t get anything back. It is so not true. When you volunteer, you get back so much more than you give.”

This is the second year that Koop Pelletier and Lougheed have coordinated the Learning thru Service program. One of the important things they have learned is that the actions of even a single person can create a cycle of sharing.

Lougheed said she was inspired and motivated by the actions of a homeless man who interrupted a conversation Pelletier and Lougheed were having with the director of a food bank in downtown Montreal earlier this year.

“We were chatting about the MCC program when a homeless man gave the director an empty plastic bag,” said Lougheed. “He said, ‘here is a bag that somebody can use.’ You should have seen how happy this homeless man was that he had something to share and how happy the director was to receive this bag.”

Witnessing this encounter, she said, reminded her that people living in poverty also find creative and innovative ways to give, experience the joy of giving and inspire others to do the same.

“Whatever people give is appreciated,” she said. “Giving gives joy to those who receive, gives joy to those who give and gives joy to those who witness it.”

MCC Quebec has been offering the Learning thru Service program for more than 10 years. This program is for people of all ages, but most of the groups that participate in the program are church and school groups from Quebec, other provinces in Canada and the U.S.

In addition to coordinating the Learning thru Service program, Lougheed and Koop Pelletier assist MCC Quebec with organizing the annual peace festival that takes place in June in Montreal, summer camps at Camp Peniel in the Laurentians north of Montreal and other administrative support.

Gladys Tericho is a writer for Mennonite Central Committee