By Kate Jackman-Atkinson, Neepawa Banner & Press
NEEPAWA, Man. — Nothing quite beats the sense of community in rural Canada. I had two reminders of this in the last week.
Like many rural Manitobans, I’m involved in a couple of local organizations and one, in particular, the Roxy Theatre, found itself in need of help on short notice. Our shows are volunteer-run and on this one day, our crew was coming from out of town and it was storming.
We reached out to our community of supporters to see if anyone in town would be available that night and within five minutes, some local volunteers had stepped forward. We had more people contact us afterwards as well.
The Roxy is something distinctly unique to Neepawa and I’m always blown away by the support it receives from the community. However, similar stories are being told across rural Manitoba. Whether it’s a rink, a hall, a sports team or an event, many rural Manitobans give their time to make our communities richer.
Statistics support this; as part of their Canada 150 releases, Statistics Canada looked at volunteerism. Overall, they found that rates of volunteerism were greater in rural and non-urban areas. In 2010, 53 percent of Manitobans reported volunteering, above the Canadian average of 47 percent.
Covering stories around the region over the last decade has impressed upon me the important role volunteers play in rural communities. The quality of life we enjoy wouldn’t be possible without our volunteers.
The other reminder came out of discussions with friends living in a larger centre. For the bulk of the 20th century, it was believed that rural residents had to go to large urban centres for a successful career. I think the tides have changed, the rest of Canada just hasn’t realized it yet. Without a doubt, there are many jobs that require living in a large centre, but many of them don’t. For the average Canadian looking for a rewarding job or career, there’s not a lot that rural communities can’t offer.
Not only are there jobs and entrepreneurship opportunities, but there are also intangibles. Rural communities have affordable housing, not just when compared to the astronomical housing values of Vancouver or Toronto. In rural Manitoba, you can buy a nice house that won’t require you to sell a kidney and your first born to make your monthly payments. Don’t want to commute? Rural life can help with that and if you chose to live out in the country and commute to work, the drive will be a pleasant one, of a reliable and consistent duration.
Perhaps the biggest benefit to rural employment is that while we might not be able to offer every job imaginable, truer opportunities exist because people can hire based on reputation. When you don’t know the person you’re hiring, your decision has to be based on resumes, official credentials or a strong demonstration of past experience. When you know, even a few steps removed, the person you’re hiring, you can forgo some official qualifications if you know the person is a hard worker, a keen learner and someone who is good to work with. Those are the skills that can be much more relevant to a person’s actual success in their job and you just can’t know those sorts of things if don’t know someone or know someone who knows someone.
I have worked the majority of my career in rural Manitoba and I don’t think I would have had the kinds of opportunities I have had if I had worked somewhere else. I certainly know I wouldn’t have had the chance to make an impact on the broader community if I lived somewhere larger, and I can’t help but wonder if I even would have wanted to.