Screenshot/Youtube.com Bridget Vickers, a member of the 2012 Pedal to Plate Tour, learns about bicycle maintenance on a 9 day cycling tour of the Ottawa region to learn about local food systems.

A local charity says it is stepping in to give some of the youth disadvantaged by federal budget cuts to the volunteer program Katimavik by expanding recruitment for its educational bicycle tours across Canada.

The federal government announced in March the 35-year-old Katimavik program would be axed in the 2012 budget. The program once placed hundreds  of youth in volunteer work positions in more than 50 communities in Canada.

Kira Burger, communications coordinator for Ottawa-based The Otesha Project, said her organization is trying to fill the gap left by the cancellation. Founded in 2002, the youth-run charitable organization trains sustainability advocates through “experiential learning programs.”

“We were really disappointed by the decision for their funding to be cut and we recognize that there’s a huge need out there for youth to have professional development opportunities that can give them an edge in a competitive job market,” said Burger.

Beginning in summer 2013, youth between 18 and 30 will bike for a period of two months in Ontario, Alberta, Saskatchewan, or British Columbia and teach lessons on sustainability in schools along the way.

Participants, like those in the Katimavik program, will learn leadership, team-building, and community engagement skills in a group setting, said Burger. The major difference with Otesha is the team is mobile.

“While we can’t bring back Katimavik this year, we do hope that youth that would have otherwise participated in the Katimavik volunteer program would consider hopping on their bikes and pedaling and doing some community engagement around Canada as an alternative,” said Burger.

More information on the The Otesha project and how to sign up is available at otesha.ca.

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