A Danish Heritage Seminar was held at the Fern Resort on Lake Couchiching near Orillia, Ontario, from Monday, May 28 to Friday morning, June 1, 2012. The theme of the Seminar was People who made a Difference. The Seminar was organized and supported financially by the Federation of Danish Associations in Canada. There were 30 participants from across Canada. Headmasters were Jørgen and Kirsten Flensted-Jensen of Brylle, Fyn, Denmark.
The Seminar began with introductions, where everyone introduced themselves. Most of the participants had attended a Seminar before. Also during Show and Tell, the participants had an opportunity to get to know each other better. Similarly at each meal the participants rotated from one table to the next, in order to sit with different people at each sitting.
The classroom and all the Seminar guest rooms were on the upper level of the Fern Resort’s main building, with the dinning room and bar downstairs. The luxurious year-round four-star Fern Resort offers first class accommodation together with a wide variety of activities and facilities, such as a health spa, fitness centre, hot tub, whirlpool, sauna, Jacuzzi, beach, one in-door swimming pool, two out-door swimming pools, restaurant, bar, nature trails as well as bikes, kayaks and canoes, which are free for the guests to use. All the units included air conditioning, coffee maker, mini fridge and a fireplace. Some rooms also had a balcony, with a beautiful view of the lake.
The first day the Headmasters, Jørgen and Kirsten, told about their time in Grimsby, Ontario, where Jørgen had been pastor at the Danish Lutheran Church for just over four years. In their presentation they included a film about the congregation and their trip across Canada. In the evening Fred Addis, curator at the Stephen Leacock Museum in Orillia, told about Stephen Leacock and his book Sunshine Sketches of a Small Town, which was first published in 1912, and is thus celebrating its centennial.
Tuesday, Jørgen spoke about Knud Rasmussen, the Danish polar explorer, who travelled up to Thule in Northern Greenland as well as across North America by dog sled, skirting the Artic Ocean, where he visited countless Inuit communities in Canada, Alaska and Siberia, before returning to Denmark. The expedition across North America took three years. Rasmussen became the first European to cross the Northwest Passage by dog sled.
Rolf Christensen spoke about Jean Monnet who inspired the European Coal and Steel Community, which in time led to the European Union. He also mentioned how the countries of Europe had moved from intergovernmental cooperation to supranational integration, where cooperation is now institutionalized and binding.
Kirsten Flensted-Jensen spoke about the Danish author and poet Steen Steensen Blicher and his work, telling one of his better-known stories. In the evening Jørgen spoke about the Danish Gym Team, about his father, as well as his and Kirsten’s participation in the Danish Gym Team, which travelled to many countries around the world. He ended by showing a film about the current National Danish Performance Gym Team, which now showcases Danish gymnastics around the world.
Wednesday morning was devoted to the life and work of South African President Nelson Mandela and Cape Town Bishop Desmond Tutu. The focus was on their struggle to abolish Apartheid and the establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee.
Wednesday afternoon was free. Some of the participants went swimming and others visited the Stephen Leacock Museum in Orillia – or just relaxed at the Fern Resort.
In the evening Jørgen told about his work with Danish Church Aid in Ethiopia, Mozambique and Sudan. He was involved in the construction of basic buildings for aid workers, refugees and the disabled as well as the organization and distribution of emergency relief aid. Jørgen also told about daily life in Africa for him and his family. He ended his presentation by showing a film which he had taken while in Africa.
Thursday morning the Seminar participants heard about the work of Mother Teresa, who founded the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta. She was also a social worker, providing help to the poor, the old, the suffering and the dying. As well, she established schools for street kids. She was certainly a person who made a difference!
Thursday the participants were divided into five workshops and were asked to answer a group of eight questions relating to the lectures. Later each group reported on its answers and conclusions. No surprises here, the five groups were generally in agreement.
Thursday evening the participants organized a Goodbye Party. One committee looked after food and beverages. Another committee re-arranged the classroom and decorated it with balloons, paper plates with faces of the participants and set up tables for food, beverages and the annual lottery. A third group led by Lili Gregerson was in charge of entertainment. Within a day or two a program of entertainment had been organized! And the quality was impressive – and there was much laughter! The Seminar thus ended on a high note – with the participants all truly enjoying themselves. Another successful Seminar had come to an all-too-early end!