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Heroes of History: Emily Carr| Heros de l’histoire: Emily Carr


Indian House Interior with Totems (1912-1913) Source: Vancouver Art Gallery/Canadian Virtual Museum.

Here at YMCA Exchanges, we’re big fans of travel, especially when it comes to taking those kinds of trips that not only leave you with good memories for years to come, but those that leave you with ideas to improve your life right after you come back. Those kind of trips that make you want to tell everyone else *right now* about what you saw and how they have to see it too (in real life, not just through your Instagram page). Canadians have been taking these kinds of trips for a long, long time, and this month’s hero of history–painter, writer and all-around inspirational person Emily Carr– is no exception. Of all the travels she took in her life (and there were many!) three trips in particular shaped the course of her life and are the reason why she is a Hero of History to us today.

Emily Carr at 21 years old, 1893. Source: Vancouver Art Gallery/Canadian Virtual Museum

Emily Carr at 21 years old, 1893. Source: Vancouver Art Gallery/Canadian Virtual Museum

Emily Carr was born on December 13, 1871 to British-born parents in Victoria, British Columbia, the 5th of 6 children. While growing up, she took an interest in the nature around her, which led her to draw many pictures of the trees, animals and beautiful scenery that was never too far from where she lived, despite no one in her family having any aspirations to making art and a lack of artistic role models. Emily’s parents died when she was in her early teens, and she took comfort in her art. Some time later, she convinced her guardians to send her to the California School of Design in San Francisco, and while there, she built on her artistic talents, learning the basics of painting.  She returned to British Columbia three years later and began using her newly minted skills, teaching art classes for young children.

While living in Victoria, she realized that the art world outside of her hometown was brimming with new styles, influences and potential, far more than the current level of her skills and what her hometown had to offer to improve those skills. She seized an opportunity to travel to France with her sister Alice in 1910, and arrived in Paris to discover the modernist art movement, among the many others that were starting at the time.  Emily took classes at the famous (and controversial for its time, as it was the first to accept female students) Academie Colarossi, but ultimately developed her talents with a British artist, Harry Gibb. Despite the budding art movements of cubism, futurism, abstraction, and fauvism, Emily developed her own post-impressionist style of painting, and returned to Victoria in 1912 with a renewed and improved set of skills to use in her creations.

In addition to the nature around her, Emily had always taken an interest in the Native peoples of the Pacific Coast, who shared much of the same landscape, but were a world away in terms of their customs, lifestyle, and especially art. The goal for the next stage of her artistic creations was to document the various totem poles and other artistic parts of the lives of the First Nations of BC. To do this, she traveled to the Queen Charlotte Islands and the Skeena River area for 6 weeks, documenting the art of the Haida, Gitksan, and Tsimsham people. The drawings and carvings she made from this trip would be the basis of many of her most famous works which showcased two important themes: the life and art of the Aboriginal cultures of the past, and the landscape of west coast Canada.

A Skidegate Beaver Pole (1941-1942). Source: Vancouver Art Gallery/Canadian Virtual Museum.

A Skidegate Beaver Pole (1941-1942). Source: Vancouver Art Gallery/Canadian Virtual Museum.

Though much of her work was unknown to Canada until after her death in 1945, Klee Wyck (“the laughing one”, her name given to her by her Native friends while traveling through the Queen Charlotte Islands) made an impact on many works of Canadian art in the years afterwards, especially those depicting Native culture. She is known as a “Canadian Icon” of Canadian art. From her travels to the United States, France and within Canada, her life is a statement in that travel leads us to open our horizons, to tell our stories and more importantly, to share the stories of others.

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My SWSE Summer Experience: Camilla|Mon expérience Emplois d’été Échanges étudiants: Camilla



I’m continually surprised by how one SWSE summer can create lasting connections. As a past participant, I know that this exchange doesn’t end when you return home – I still keep in touch with the people I travelled to Quebec with, my host family and my twin! My exchange trip is still one of the best summers I’ve ever had. It was so much fun exploring new places, trying new things and meeting new people. by the end of the six weeks, I had also fallen in love with Quebec! So when I applied to work with the YMCA as a Local Coordinator, I wanted to give a new group of students the chance to explore and enjoy another part of Canada like I did (and have the time of their lives to boot!).

Setting myself with the goal of creating a memorable summer was challenging sometimes; as Local Coordinators (LCs), we want to make sure that everyone has a great exchange no matter what their interests are. This means balancing oil painting with a night out line dancing, and weekend camping with city sightseeing. I was also excited about showcasing a side of my community, Brampton, ON, that not many people know about such as the vibrancy and small town charm of downtown Brampton on a Farmer’s Market Saturday! I wanted to give the incoming participants a summer of exciting adventures, lasting friendships and new perspectives. However, I was so preoccupied with what I could give, I didn’t realize how much my participants would give me.

I have learned so much about patience, laughter and fearlessness from my participants during my time as an LC. My participants brought so much honesty, energy and their individual experiences that I was always learning something new about them, myself, and being part of a team. Despite being incredibly different, we grew respect and developed trust. That’s not to say there were no tense moments, or that there were no tears (there were!) – we just learned to be honest about our feelings and remember that for six weeks, we were family.

I am most grateful for having the opportunity to meet such a dynamic and thoughtful group of individuals two summers in a row.  And really, as much as we LCs get excited planning for big activities, the best memories are always the small moments you can never plan for: it’s pouring rain but we’re singing camp songs and radio hits while cycling around the Toronto Islands; it’s 8:00am but a small group of early risers from Brampton West, Markham and Richmond Hill are sharing conversation, muffins and peaches at our camping trip until the others wake up; it’s a long drive to Tree Top Trekking or Niagara Falls, but our car becomes the best dance party on four wheels. Pancakes for dinner, Hide and Seek in the park, Pachamama…too many to list!

I couldn’t have anticipated how meaningful my SWSE summers would be as an LC. The truth is, LCs will be crying alongside participants at the end of the summer. So, on behalf of LCs past and present, thank you to you, the participants – for your laughter, your kindness and positive attitude. It means a lot to us.



Je ne cesse de m’étonner de la façon dont une expérience Emplois d’été Échanges étudiants peut créer des relations durables. Ayant moi-même participé à un échange, je sais que celui-ci ne se termine pas lorsque vous retournez à la maison; je suis toujours en contact avec des gens avec qui j’ai voyagé au Québec, avec ma famille d’accueil et avec mon jumeau! Mon voyage d’échange demeure l’un des meilleurs étés que j’ai jamais vécu. C’était tellement amusant de découvrir de nouveaux endroits, d’essayer de nouvelles choses et de rencontrer de nouvelles personnes. À la fin des six semaines, j’étais aussi tombée amoureuse du Québec! C’est pourquoi, lorsque j’ai posé ma candidature pour travailler au YMCA à titre de coordonnatrice régionale, je voulais donner la chance à un nouveau groupe d’élèves de découvrir et d’apprécier une autre région du Canada comme j’ai pu le faire (et de vivre la meilleure expérience de leur vie au maximum!).

Il était parfois difficile d’atteindre mon objectif de créer un été mémorable; en tant que coordonnateurs régionaux (CR), nous voulons nous assurer que tous vivent un excellent échange, peu importe leurs intérêts, ce qui signifie qu’il faut trouver un équilibre entre la peinture à l’huile et une soirée de danse en ligne et entre une fin de semaine en camping et une visite touristique de la ville. J’étais aussi enthousiaste à l’idée de présenter un aspect de ma communauté (Brampton, en Ontario) que peu de gens connaissent, notamment le charme et la capacité d’adaptation du centre-ville de Brampton, un samedi pendant le Marché des fermiers! Je voulais offrir un été rempli d’aventures excitantes, d’amitiés durables et de nouveaux points de vue aux participants d’ailleurs. Cependant, j’étais si préoccupée par ce que je pouvais donner que je ne me suis pas rendu compte de tout de ce que les participants pouvaient m’offrir.

J’ai tellement appris relativement à la patience, au rire et à l’audace grâce à mes participants lorsque j’étais CR. Ils m’ont apporté honnêteté, énergie et expériences individuelles, et ce qui m’a amené à sans cesse apprendre quelque chose de nouveau à propos d’eux, de moi-même et du travail d’équipe. Même si nous étions incroyablement différents, nous avons appris à nous respecter et à nous faire confiance. Je ne dis pas qu’il n’y a pas eu de tensions ni de larmes (il y en a eu!); nous avons simplement appris à être francs quant à nos émotions et à nous rappeler que pour six semaines, nous étions une famille.

Je suis d’autant plus reconnaissante d’avoir eu l’occasion de rencontrer un groupe d’individus aussi dynamiques et attentionnés deux étés d’affilée.  Et, honnêtement, autant nous, les CR, sommes enthousiastes lorsque nous planifions de grosses activités, les meilleurs souvenirs sont toujours ceux des petits moments imprévisibles : il pleut des cordes, mais nous chantons des chansons de camp et des tubes tournés à la radio en faisant du vélo dans les îles de Toronto; nous sommes en camping, il est 8 h et un petit groupe de lève-tôt de Brampton Ouest, Markham et Richmond Hill discutent entre eux en mangeant des muffins et des pêches en attendant que les autres se lèvent; le voyage est long vers Tree Top Trekking ou vers les chutes Niagara, mais notre voiture devient la meilleure fête dansante à quatre roues. Des crêpes pour diner, des parties de cache-cache dans le parc, la Pachamama… il y a tant de choses à énumérer!

Je n’aurais pu prévoir à quel point mes étés dans le cadre du programme Emplois d’été Échanges étudiants seraient importants en tant que CR. La vérité c’est que les CR pleureront en chœur avec les participants à la fin de l’été. Je tiens à remercier les participants, de la part des CR précédents et actuels. Merci pour vos rires, votre gentillesse et votre attitude positive. Cela signifie beaucoup pour nous.

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My SWSE Summer Experience: Sabrina |Mon experience d’ete avec l’EEEE: Sabrina


Sabrina (right) with SWSE Gatineau LC Amelie.


Hi! My name is Sabrina and I had the chance to participate in the SWSE exchange this summer in Gatineau, Quebec. This was an amazing opportunity to meet new friends and improve my second language (French). It certainly was all that and so much more. I got to meet some really genuine friends that I laughed so hard with that if we were at a restaurant, we’d cause a scene and the waiter had to ask if we were okay. I stayed with a family who I quickly learned was soccer-crazy: soccer games, soccer practice and FIFA World Cup games–don’t forget recreational soccer too! Because of them, I have a new found appreciation for the sport.

All jokes aside, I got to meet the most dedicated father I’ve ever met and some pretty great kids too. I couldn’t have imagined a better family to fit in with, be it going for hikes with my host dad or playing some pretty intense games of Mario Kart (a racing video game), I always felt at home. Everything was pretty great, even the things I wasn’t used to, like milk in a bag, eating shawarma, or the dog’s hair EVERYWHERE in the house. The one thing that made my experience a little different was halfway through the exchange, when I broke my ankle.  I tend to (unintentionally) make everything 100 times harder for myself: I had to get surgery in Quebec, and then there were complications and all that jazz all while getting constant checkups from my mom back home in Saskatchewan. It wasn’t the most ideal situation, but I learned a lot; I learned how determined I am to get things accomplished, even while on crutches. I also learned how much I dislike hospitals in Quebec since i had to make so many visits during my recovery.

Because of my injury, I missed out on work, the cool activities with the group and just the chance to have responsibility and be active with my family while exploring the city. But i definitely didn’t want to leave–no way José–so I found the perks of being at home like hanging out with my cool little host siblings, baking cookies and most importantly, becoming super-close friends with my coordinator, Amelie. I don’t know what I would have done without her this summer, from her comic relief with the (slightly aloof) doctors, her being there with me during almost every hospital trip, and even helping me figure out that there was an alarm coming from my fridge because I left it open (I didn’t know that was even a thing!).

I’d like to say there was nothing I would change about this summer…but I am just so thankful that I didn’t think too much about doing this exchange, I just did it. Best decision of my life. So many stories to tell. I could not have asked for better people to share my summer with.



Sabrina in good spirits with her broken ankle.

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Communities in focus: Eden Community Food Bank (Mississauga, ON)


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One of the most important part of the Summer Work Student Exchange is the “W”: work! In 2014, we paired our 788 students with 563 employers across Canada, who make one several of the key players who provide the environment in which students experience a new part of Canada while getting to know their community and second official language. We paid a visit to the Eden Community Food Bank in Mississauga, ON( a suburb of Toronto), where 2 of our students, Raphael LaJoie and Roxanne Ferland from St-Maurice, Quebec, spent the summer sorting food donations, cooking meals in the community kitchen with the resident chef, and serving said meals to those in need while living with their host families and discovering the community.

The Eden Community Food Bank was founded in the 1980s by a group of people who saw a growing need for access to food and food resources from people living in the community of western Mississauga.  The Food Bank has changed and evolved to meet the needs of the community it serves over the years, and offers many services and programs that help those in need when they need it (many use the bank on a short-term basis of about 3 months). The fully stocked commercial kitchen is the hub of community cooking classes for clients and non-clients, preparation and serving of daily meals to local school children and clients, and hundreds of volunteers (the lifeblood of the organization) help to sort and organize food, stocking food shelves, delivering trucks to pick up food donations and serving clients food, among many other tasks that help the Bank help as many people as possible.

Community and Engagement Coordinator Christina Phillips gave us a few helpful tips to keep in mind should you want to donate to any food bank:

a) Before you buy that can of tomato sauce at the grocery store, think again–it’s one of the least desired items in a food bank’s pantry. Grab the can(s) of chicken noodle soup instead.

b) Toiletries are in growing demand. In addition to that can of soup, consider donating a bar of soap, a deodorant stick or even give away those unused (but still useful) bottles of nail polish–feeding someone’s self-confidence is just as important as feeding the body.

c) Keep this in mind: Donate food that you would eat yourself.


A huge thanks to the friendly staff at ECFB for taking the time to show us around their great facility and being a partner in the experience of a lifetime we provide for the students of our Summer Work Student Exchange Program!

If you are interested in volunteering with ECFB, click here for more details.  If you are looking to volunteer elsewhere, here is a great resource to get you started.




Une des parties la plus importante du programme Emplois d’été Échanges étudiants est le « E »: emplois! En 2014, nous avons jumelé nos 762 élèves avec  563 employeurs partout au Canada, qui font partie  des acteurs clés qui fournissent l’environnement dans lequel les élèves vivent une nouvelle partie du Canada tout en apprenant à connaître leur communauté et leur deuxième langue officielle. Nous avons payé une visite Eden Community Food Bank (banque alimentaire communautaire) à Mississauga, ON (une banlieue de Toronto), où 2 de nos étudiants, Raphael LaJoie et Roxanne Ferland de St-Maurice,  Québec ont travaille pendant l’été. Ils ont fait des taches comme trier les dons de nourriture, la préparation des repas dans le cuisine communautaire avec le chef de résident, et de servir ces repas aux personnes,  tout en vivant avec leurs familles d’accueil et la découverte de la communauté.

L’ECFB a été fondée dans les années 1980 par un groupe de personnes qui ont vu un besoin pour l’accès aux ressources alimentaires des personnes vivant dans la communauté de l’ouest de Mississauga. Il a changé et évolué pour répondre aux besoins de la communauté qu’il sert au fil des ans, et offre presentement de nombreux services et programmes qui aident leurs clients. La plupart des clients utilisent la banque sur une base à court terme d’environ 3 mois, quand ils en ont besoin. La cuisine commerciale entièrement approvisionné est la plaque tournante des cours de cuisine de la communauté pour les clients et non-clients, la préparation et le service des repas quotidiens aux enfants des écoles locales et des clients, et des centaines de bénévoles (la pierre angulaire de l’organisation) aide à trier et organiser la nourriture, de remplir les étagères de produits alimentaires, la livraison des camions pour ramasser des dons de nourriture et servir les clients alimentaire, parmi de nombreuses autres tâches qui aident la Banque aider autant de personnes que possible.

La coordonnatrice de l’engagement communautaire au l’ECFB, Christina Phillips, nous a donné quelques conseils utiles à garder à l’esprit si vous voulez faire un don à une banque d’alimentation:

a) Avant d’acheter une boîte de soupe aux tomates à l’épicerie, réflechissez a deux fois-c’est l’un des éléments les moins souhaités dans le garde-manger d’une banque alimentaire. Au lieu de celle-ci, achetez une boîte de soupe aux poulet et nouilles.

b) Les accessoires de toilette sont en demande a croissance rapide. En addition des boîtes de soupe, envisager de faire don d’une barre de savon, du déodorant ou même de donner des bouteilles non utilisés (mais toujours utiles) de vernis à ongles – la confiance en soi est aussi important que l’alimentation du corps.

c) Donnez des aliments que vous voudrez manger vous-meme.

Un grand merci au personnel à l’ECFB de prendre le temps de nous montrer autour de leur grande facilité et d’être un partenaire dans l’expérience d’une vie que nous offrons aux étudiants de notre programme!

Pour plus d’information d’etre bénévole chez l’ECFB, cliquez ici. Pour des infos d’etre bénévole en général au Canada, cliquez ici.