The Goal -
Challenge the notion of traditional camping by inspiring the next generation of environmental leaders to become stewards of the region, connecting to nature and each other.
British Columbia’s Howe Sound region is experiencing a remarkable marine revival following decades of industrial pollution and development. This camp was a response to cultivating leadership among young people over 18 to keep that revival going. It also presented a unique opportunity to connect younger people to nature and disconnect them from electronic devices. The venue on an isolated island in the heart of Howe Sound was an ideal setting for outdoor interactive learning and professional skills development. The partnership with the Squamish Nation gave campers access to traditional ecological knowledge and stories in a fun atmosphere that fostered deep peer-to-peer and culture-to-culture connections. The camp cultivated a meaningful and growing working relationship with the Squamish Nation, on whose unceded territory the camp is built. Each camper, it was hoped, would leave after the one week experience with a greater understanding of what commitment to place means and a desire to act on that commitment to protect Howe Sound.
The Solution -
Host children and youth in an outdoor setting that develops skills, connects youth to nature, cultivates leadership and promotes reconciliation with local First Nations.
Camp Suzuki: Howe Sound, located on isolated Gambier Island in the heart of B.C.’s spectacular Howe Sound, aims to inspire the next generation of environmental leaders. In 2015, we hosted 50 young adults at our camp. After a successful camp experience, we added a summer camp for children ages 7-12 in 2016. Participants spent time outdoors learning about nature and how to protect it for future generations . . . and they had fun.
Participants left with a better understanding of marine ecosystem dynamics in Howe Sound, including concepts of resiliency and specific species inhabiting the region. They developed an emotional connection to Howe Sound through place-based learning and teachings. Teachings fostered a community with a shared vision that takes action at camp to better Howe Sound. Campers learned how to integrate traditional ecological knowledge and Western-based science into decision-making. During a year which focused on reconciliation, they learned about the role of non-Indigenous people within Indigenous culture from historical and current perspectives of the Squamish Nation. Young adult participants developed essential tools for community organizing, including storytelling, speaking to government and media, and using voice for impact. Children campers learned practical skills for lowering their personal environmental impact.
The Results -
The camp has built a conversation about what makes Howe Sound a unique region and a desire to plan for its sustainable future. Now in its third year, this camp has brought together 92 young adults and 55 children together in a first for the region. This year’s camp promises to host 85 children and 50 young adults, including 25 from the Squamish Nation.
Some unique outcomes from the camp include:
- A song gifted to the camp by a Squamish Nation elder which participants learned and performed throughout the week.
- A place hosted for Squamish Nation elders to share a rarely told creation myth to campers.
- More than 35 volunteer placements with organizations in the Howe Sound community.
- More than 85 per cent of participants reported a deep connection to Howe Sound.
Insider Tip -
- Developing deep relationships takes time. Our successes in this program have grown over the years because we’ve built meaningful connections with the Squamish Nation.
- Build in the time needed to create deep relationships through understanding, trust and listening to each other.
- Despite best laid plans, you must be adaptable to make changes on the fly. Be prepared for things not to go as you originally envisioned.
- Great conservation programs take lessons learned from each year and refine the plans to reflect those lessons. Be sure to envision what the impact could look like in a few years’ time, and how the legacy of your work can live outside of the program itself.
- Camp Suzuki: Howe Sound
- Video, Disconnect from technology and connect nature: