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April 26, 2019

A Lifelong Dedication to Youth and to the Community

An interview with Valdemar Amigo, incoming Director of Encounters with Canada

Encounters with Canada (EWC), Canada’s biggest youth forum, is welcoming a new Director, in its first change in leadership in over two decades. After 21 years of shepherding more than 60,000 Canadian teenagers through this program, EWC’s former Director General, Linda Brunet, retired in March 2019. This role will now be filled by Valdemar Amigo, formerly of Forum for Young Canadians, who took some time to answer questions about himself and his vision for EWC.

Can you tell us about yourself and what led you to become Director of EWC?

Valdemar Amigo (V.A) - I grew up in Hull [now Gatineau, QC]. My parents immigrated from Portugal when I was two and they really got involved in the Portuguese community. Hull was really welcoming to the Portuguese and we wanted to give something back.
I got into high school football. It has given me a lot; keeping me out of trouble and leading to other opportunities. I got a full scholarship to play football in North Dakota, but unfortunately my football career hit a curb when I got in a major car accident. It took two years for me to get back on my feet. I ended up working with youth, and that’s where I found my new passion.

You would have many stories to tell to this week’s EWC Sports & Fitness participants!

V. A. - Yes! This is the type of thing that I like to give back to the youth, and I hope it inspires them to become better people and better Canadian citizens. I’ve been doing this at Forum for Young Canadians for close to 24 years and we don’t produce half as many students as Encounters does. Seeing youth come and go, putting smiles on their faces, listening to them debate and articulate their passions is what motivates me.

Encounters was founded in 1982 - it has evolved a lot over the years. What’s your vision of the role it can play in Canada in 2019?

V. A. - Canada is ever evolving. We need to be more aware of what we’re going to leave for the next generation. With programs like this, we’re giving youth an opportunity to speak out and have a voice in the country. And we hope it inspires them to be more involved in their community, promote change and make this country better. I’d like to see us providing participants with more passion and resources to continue something beyond the one-week experience. To put that into place, I’ll need a lot of help from the people here, who are passionate too. I want to hear what they have to say. Leaders can only do as well as what their team can provide. Sometimes they have better ideas, and I’m here to listen to them.

In September you’ll greet participants for the first time. What will you tell them?

V. A. - I’m always interested in what their passions are. And I would like to provide them with insight and experiences of my own and see how their time here will open up doors from them. This is how I greeted students for the last 23 years, so it’s a continuation. That’s how I see this new challenge – it’s a continuation of what I was doing, with some bigger leadership responsibilities, and it’s giving back to the youth and to the community.