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Prince George author reflects on cross-Canada youth program in first book

Devon Flynn has published his first book Elsewhere, Canada: Musings of a Katimaviker
Author and Prince George resident Devon Flynn.

Born and raised in Hazelton, but now a long-time Prince George resident, writer Devon Flynn has published his first book: Elsewhere, Canada: Musings of a Katimaviker, reflecting on his journey across the country as part of a nine-month youth volunteer program. 

Katimavik was founded in the 1970s by Jacques Hébert, a Canadian Senator, and Barney Danson, then the Federal Minister of National Defence, to develop youth and foster civic engagement through community service. 

Now 36, Flynn took part in the program in 2005 after finishing high-school at 18, making his way to Ontario, Quebec, and Newfoundland, volunteering in the communities of Sault Ste. Marie, Saint-Élie-de-Caxton, and Corner Brook. 

"All had their own little merits, and I couldn't have asked for a better placement," said Flynn. 

Sault Ste. Marie was a good start to the experience, he added, a change of pace coming from a rural small town to a big city, while Saint-Élie-de-Caxton was the opposite, explained Flynn, a small town surrounded by Mauricie National Park, where he helped with maintenance and upkeep in the park. 

His eastern counterparts in the program were from places such as Montreal, Ottawa, and Gatineau, noted Flynn, though there was a youth from rural Nova Scotia. 

"It was much more challenging for everybody else," he said of Saint-Élie-de-Caxton. "Meanwhile, it's like the French version of home for me, though it was the French version of home, I had a lot of difficulty with the French immersion." 

Flynn added that while reading and writing in French came easy enough, speaking it was a challenge. 

"Understanding rural Quebecois was incredibly difficult for me," he noted.

His last placement was in Newfoundland, with the experience ending on a high note, explained Flynn, who says his trip taught him how to appreciate the small things in life, the gems in Canadian towns and cities. 

"Be a tourist in your own town - that really came to life, and ever since then I always found myself looking for these little gems whenever I go travelling," he noted. "Even when I go back home, is what do we have that is special? What is something that we can appreciate? The people, the location, that small little coffee that's open more than five days a week after 5 pm."

"And even now, living in Prince George, there's so much about this city that I really enjoy and I try to practice that and encourage others to do the same wherever they live," added Flynn. 

The book has been on his mind for many years, explained Flynn, wanting to put his experience into words since he was 21. A book launch was held on March 2 at Books and Company, which he says was well received and attended. 

"It just finally felt like time - I was content with what I wrote, after draft, after draft, after draft, most avid writers will agree, it's hard to hit that publish button, but it finally got to a point where I was content with the stories and the editing, and I was ready to share it," he said. 

The Katimavik program is still around and continues to send youth across the country, though it is a bit shorter at just five and a half months of travel and placements.

"The nuance of each province, you know, we have our own subculture while still being part of a larger nation, that we call Canada," says Flynn, grateful for the time spent. "It makes it an interesting place, and good lord, a very large place too."