Alumni Rebecca French took the time to answer some questions and share what she has been up to since her time with Experiences Canada.
Can you please tell us a little bit about yourself?
My name is Rebecca French. I’m originally from Bay Roberts, Newfoundland and Labrador. I relocated to St. John’s in 2013 for university and have lived here ever since. I have been a Social Worker for five years, and I am also an avid volunteer in my community with grassroots non-profit organizations grounded in harm reduction.
When and which Experiences Canada programs did you participate in?
In 2011 I travelled to Rose Valley Saskatchewan on an exchange when Experiences Canada was known as SEVEC. Following this exchange, I was chosen to represent Newfoundland and Labrador on the Youth Advisory Committee (YAC). I served a 2-year term on the YAC as the NL representative, and served an additional 1-year term as the President.
How did your participation and involvement with Experiences Canada impact your life?
I often find myself reflecting on the invaluable experiences, skills and knowledge I gained from my involvement with Experiences Canada.
During my exchange, we visited Wanuskewin Heritage Park. This was my first time learning about Indigenous peoples outside of the Newfoundland and Labrador context, as this is a large gap in the school curriculum. This trip inspired me to expand my knowledge of the different Indigenous groups across Canada, as well as the impact of colonialism. This has been a continuous journey of learning and reflection, which I contribute to my exchange.
My time spent on the YAC helped me gain leadership and advocacy skills which have been valuable strengths in my career. We spent time meeting with Ministers and Members of Parliament (MP) to demonstrate first hand the value of exchanges, as well as work towards advocating for funding. As President, I was responsible for presenting to the Board which helped me gain networking and interpersonal skills.
The entirety of my time with Experiences Canada helped me to understand each individual has a unique story which shapes their identity, beliefs, values, and social location. It is important to value each individuals’ experience and be open to learning and having your worldviews challenged. I also became familiar with the strength and resilience of youth, who hold such a large capacity to inspire and motivate change. This influenced me to begin my social work career working in the area of outreach and youth engagement.
Can you tell us about where you are now? What your life looks like today?
My permanent position is with the Office of the Citizens’ Representative (OCR). The OCR is Newfoundland and Labrador’s provincial Ombudsman Office. However, I am currently on a leave of absence and I am working as a Policy and Program Development Specialist with the provincial government in the Department of Children, Seniors and Social Development.
What advice do you have for today’s youth?
I would encourage youth to not be afraid of change, trying new things, or meeting new people. Believe in yourself and your ability to inspire change and motivate others. Stand up for what you believe in, but always be open to hearing other perspectives.