High school program inspiring

With Canada Post struggling to hang onto its traditional core mail delivery service, we should be inspired after reading this edition’s cover story on the Ottawa high school students who created postal covers for Valentine’s Day.

As reported by CSN’s Jesse Robitaille, the Grade 11 students at Merivale High School participated in a classroom program that gave them a better appreciation of stamp collecting and the history and art behind the hobby.

“Today’s young adults know nothing about mail and stamps,” teacher Irving Osterer tells CSN. “The hardest thing is getting them to address envelopes correctly – they have no idea at all. This is just not their vernacular.”

Compared to only a decade or so ago, communication for today’s young people has shifted to a virtual world of texts, emails and social media sites, compared to newspapers, magazines, books and mail.

In releasing its 2014 results, Canada Post reported the volume of mail – mainly letters, bills and statements – fell more than five per cent – or 214 million pieces. In fact, the Crown corporation reported it delivers 28 per cent less mail than in 2006, representing a whopping 1.4 billion pieces.

This has forced post offices across the world to change their business models to stop the financial bleeding.

Canada Post is turning itself around, ending its 2014 fiscal year with a before-tax profit of $194 million – compared to a $125-million loss the previous year.

To the chagrin of many Canadians, this came with a cost. In 2014, as part of its “five-point action plan” Canada Post implemented hefty increases in mailing a letter while at the same time began cutting urban home mail delivery across Canada. While unions, municipalities and other concerned parties are fighting the plan – especially replacing home delivery with community boxes – their battle with Canada Post is futile.

The federal government will not be intervening, considering it gave Canada Post its marching orders to stop the bleeding.

This is disheartening for stamp collectors who fear the hobby will become lost as mail volumes continues its rapid decline, and the disconnect between stamps and mail widens for today’s young people.  So when we read about the Ottawa high school students’ foray into creating stamp covers, this should encourage us that there are still ways to connect young people with the hobby.

In speaking with area stamp clubs, I understand it is next to impossible for some clubs to get into their local schools to share the hobby with students, due to school board policies.

Perhaps this is an opportunity for national organizations like the Royal Philatelic Society of Canada and the Canadian Stamp Dealers’ Association to partner with educators like Irving Osterer and the Ottawa-Carlton District School Board to create a think-tank on how programs like his can be expanded across schools in Canada.

“The kids love it, as for many of them it’s the first thing they’ve ever mailed,” Osterer says of his school’s successful philatelic program.

Let’s look for opportunities to build on that success.

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