There have been many ideas discussed by residents about what to do with Kemptville College. Most of them are about the future and what they should do with the re-named Kemptville Centre For Rural Advancement. Some of the ideas about education have ranged from bringing back agricultural education and training, to courses on brewing beer and winemaking. Some ideas have revolved around blending educational and commercial activities. The commercial activities discussed have included things like cheesemaking and starting a creamery to make things like yogurt, butter and ice cream. Other ideas have included bringing in government operations like food science research, agricultural research, forestry research and even researching ways to purify water supplies (to support the Ryan’s Well Foundation) that can be used around the world.
All of these have varying levels of merit and some are downright fantastic! However, these ideas are about the future. The municipality is still working on the framework for negotiating the purchase of the college from the Agriculture Research Institute of Ontario. This might not happen at all or it might not happen until some time late next year. Up until that time, it would be great if someone could make use of the buildings for some purpose other than running up a hydro bill, which certainly doesn’t take long.
As far-fetched as it may seem, there is a possible solution with what to do with the college in the short term. The solution could be exploring the possibility of bringing some Syrian refugees to live temporarily at Kemptville College. With the new federal government’s commitment to bring 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada by the end of the year, it stands to reason that they will be desperate to find places for the refugees to live. Though bringing them to the college would be temporary and would require the co-operation of both the federal and provincial governments (not to mention the University of Guelph who still operates the campus), the probability of the two of them working together is significantly higher than it was a month ago. Though the municipal government would have no real say in the matter (seeing that North Grenville doesn’t own the college yet), it’s reasonable to assume that the municipality would be included in at least part of the discussions.
The college already has beds in the residences that could be used. As far as food goes, if they were given money to buy food for themselves, the rooms at the residence don’t have kitchens. However, the college does have a cafeteria that could serve hundreds of people. The grounds are extensive with lots of room to walk and explore, along with a gym to do some organized activities and exercising. The college has a number of classrooms that could be used for English/French language training and simple life skills training to help refugees adjust to and prepare for life in Canada.
If the new federal government is serious, it stands to reason that they would also be willing to foot the bill for transporting, housing, feeding and providing the English/French language training as well. I doubt that the municipal government would be asked to contribute financially, but maybe their role would be as ambassadors and to try to make the refugees feel as welcome as possible. This situation could be used as a nice employment boost for North Grenville too. Employees would be needed to do admin work, to cook, to clean and to teach at the college. I’m sure there are plenty of residents who could fill those jobs. The refugees would also probably be given a little money to buy some other necessities, which could mean that because they’re within walking distance of Old Town Kemptville, they could do some simple shopping or sample some Canadian food and culture and give a nice economic boost to Old Town Kemptville.
There’s room at the inn, so why couldn’t we use it now to offer help to people who desperately need it? Why couldn’t we use it to bring at least a temporary employment and economic boost to North Grenville? And finally, why couldn’t we use it to demonstrate the incredible compassion and kindness of North Grenville, to the rest of the world?
Could this work?