Over the past century, parents have involved themselves and their children in 4-H Clubs across Canada for many reasons. 4-H provides youth – aged 6 to 25 – with opportunities to learn and experience new things in volunteer-run local clubs.
Charity Mills was a 4-Her and she loved it. “My brothers were in 4-H before me, so I couldn’t wait to start. I wanted to show calves like the rest of my family,” she recalls.
Winning Grand Aggregate for her club, Charity participated in an exchange program in Manitoba, and held executive positions. “Mom and dad always told us that the clubs couldn’t run without volunteers in the executive positions. That was a big part of our 4-H – everybody needed to help out,” Charity says.
Now Charity’s the mom and her kids are the 4-Hers. Charity’s been general leader and assistant general leader of the Beef Club, and helps out with the Horse Club.
The Horse Club at Lanigan,Sask. got its start four years ago when Charity’s daughter Morgan showed interest. “Morgan wanted to start a horse project within our beef club, so we organized a meeting. So many kids showed up that they decided to start their own club,” Charity recalls.
Sue Bernauer has been general leader of the Lanigan horse club since it started. Sue grew up south of Battleford, Sask., where farm chores kept her too busy for 4-H. That’s why she’s happy to help create the experience for children in her community now.
“I was horse-crazy as a kid. I begged my parents for five years before they finally relented and got me a horse. My daughter Jenna is as horse-crazy as I was, so we do this together and we love it,” Sue says.
In 4-H beef and horse clubs, children learn more than how to take proper care of the animals. They learn important life skills like responsibility, public speaking, team work, decision making – and business skills, too, like record- keeping for their animals.
“A 4-H Club is run by its members, not by the parents. They have to make decisions and take responsibility on the executive. They learn that there is work involved, but with that work comes some rewards,” Sue says.
For Charity, experiences like public speaking, judging and being on the executive made her nervous as a child. “I never really valued the skills that I was learning until I became a parent and leader myself. Now I realize that the skills and responsibility we take away from 4-H are so valuable,” she says.
In 4-H, kids , no matter what their age, learn to work together. That’s different than most organized sports or schools. Picture a group of children of all ages putting together animal stalls for a show – that’s 4-H. “Everyone is assigned a job. The seniors are in charge of tools, while smaller kids will pass tools and spread straw. The younger kids learn to speak up and ask older members for help, which builds confidence,” Charity says.
Sue recognizes that both she and her daughter Jenna have changed in positive ways because of their experiences in 4-H. “I have learned more about horses in the past three or four years than I did the whole time growing up. Jenna has learned to open up and meet new people, and she also gets a huge sense of accomplishment when she does well,” Sue says.
As 4-H Canada celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2013, it will continue to provide an environment where youth can learn skills to help make the world a better place. “They go, they participate, and they do their best. Whether they win the red ribbon or not, they still learn and have fun,” Sue says.
If you’re a 4-Her, we’d love to hear about it. Share your story.