Every year a handful of students have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be a contributing part of sharing Canada’s military history with the world as guides through the Veteran’s Affairs Canada (VAC) Student Guide Program in France.
Started in 1963 at the Canadian National Vimy Memorial, the Student Guide Program provides 45 students the chance to work as guides at historical sites.
The program was expanded in 1997 to include the Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial.
“There are ancillary benefits to having a group of young, enthusiastic Canadians here on our sites, that are learning history firsthand by being here and they are putting that in practice by sharing that through interpretative talks and guided tours, thereby providing remembrance beyond Canadian youth,” said Greg Kenney, Director General of European Operations VAC.
VAC accepts students for three four-month sessions annually. These young Canadians are responsible for welcoming thousands of visitors each year.
“Essentially their key responsibility, from that perspective, is to share and impart the important history that these sites represent both to Canadians and Newfoundlanders as well as Allies and friends from around the world,” added Kenney.
Kenney explains, however, that they are not in the “guide-tour business.” In fact, the program is more for students to learn about Canadian military history and its role in the First and Second World Wars. The focus is on remembrance and aligns with the VAC mandate “to ensure future generations don’t forget the bravery and sacrifice of Canadian soldiers that serve and the values they fought for live on.”
VAC is looking for students that are comfortable with public speaking, want to learn about Canada’s history, but don’t necessarily have to be Canadian history students.
Students are bound to learn more at these sites than possible in any classroom.
“It’s very emotional and life-altering in terms of the appreciation that they walk away with after spending four months here,” noted Kenney.
According to Kenney, the experience is worth-while for any young Canadian.
“It’s a unique opportunity to live work and travel in France for a four month period and to live and breath the military history that really was fundamental in founding our great nation and to be exposed to what happened here and get a full understanding of why it happened and Canada’s role in making history. It’s something they will carry with them for the rest of their lives,” said Kenney.
Students part of the program are paid according to the Student Rates of Pay for Departmental Program through the Federal Student Work Program. In addition, they are given a daily living allowance of $28, paid in addition to the hourly rate of pay.
The next recruitment period will be for the Winter/Spring 2017 session. The period to apply for that session ends mid-September.
For more information about the Student Guide Program in France or to visit VAC website.