Growing up, I was fortunate that people had been willing to volunteer their time as scout leaders, youth leaders, and role models to provide me with opportunities to take part in outdoor activities and adventure sports, and to impart important life lessons. Now that I’m an adult, it’s important for me to follow their example, and pass on some of that same wisdom and those experience to others. However, due to the nature of my job (always travelling, sometimes at short notice), it is difficult to meet the commitment requirements that most volunteer organizations require. Fortunately, after much searching for opportunities, I learned of Power To Be by happy accident while attending a MEC Paddlefest in 2014.

This organization was exactly the sort of thing I was looking for: providing outdoor experiences for people who otherwise would face challenges in getting out in nature. The flexibility of signing up for Outdoor Activity programs based on my availability, and being able to withdraw for months at a time due to work, was the kind of flexibility I needed.

I quickly became a regular volunteer with Power To Be, and took part in many activities such as mountain hikes, tandem kayaking, and geocaching—all while getting to know the wonderful participants, energetic volunteers, and dedicated staff of Power To Be. When a generous donation meant that Power To Be was able to set down roots at their Prospect Lake site, I began to join volunteer work parties, helping to make the site more accessible, and removing invasive species. The staff would joke I became a fixture at those work parties, and I miss them dearly.

Sadly, a couple years ago, I had to move to Ontario for work and to upgrade my education. As a result, I was no longer able to actively participate as a volunteer with Power To Be (though I kept in touch and followed their growth through monthly newsletters and social media). I’m glad I did, because, as the world struggled to adapt to life with COVID-19, I found myself having to find an internship as a school requirement in the midst of a pandemic. However, because Power To Be had pivoted to an online environment, conducting virtual drop-in activities for their participants, and having their staff work remotely, I realized there was an opportunity to once again get involved with the organization I was so keen to support. And that is how I became the Marketing & Communications Practicum Intern for four months in 2021.

When I initially proposed the idea with Ashleigh, Power To Be’s Volunteer and Impact Lead, to do a placement, I was unsure of what exactly it might look like. After meeting to discuss what my roles and responsibilities could be, I was excited to once again contribute to Power To Be’s mission that “Everyone Belongs In Nature” (though I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I was nervous). Fortunately, my supervisor, Kira, the MarComm team, and the rest of Power To Be’s staff were incredibly welcoming, and put my worries to ease, and I immediately set to work.

I quickly learned how to work in Microsoft Teams, how to plan, schedule, and post to social media through Hootsuite and Facebook’s Business Suite tools, how to design newsletters in MailChimp, and grew my knowledge of how to operate the backend of WordPress. As part of my practicum, I put the skills I had learned in school to use, editing videos, creating imagery, and sharing stories. I was tasked with many different projects that I found both challenging and rewarding, such as being asked to explore options for third-party fundraisers and present my findings to the team —an area that I was not familiar with, but which would be useful in my public relations work.

The highlight, though was working with Danica, the Systems and Projects Lead, and the MarComm team to review the Power To Be Store’s purpose and goals, producing a planning document for the way forward, and designing new merchandise. These activities culminated in a re-launch of the store in May.

At the same time that I was working with the Power To Be staff, I was also able to connect with participants by joining several of the virtual activities the Programs Teams in both Victoria and Vancouver were conducting. It was so rewarding to again be supporting people in learning about and connecting with nature, even if we couldn’t be together in person. It was also a pleasant escape from lockdown in Ontario, as I helped teach and learn alongside the participants about cartography, astronomy, and world wonders, among other things.

Looking back at my time as a practicum student, I realize all the ways I cultivated new skills, gained invaluable experience, and made new connections, all in such a short amount of time! I’m grateful for the opportunity, and would encourage anyone looking for a similar opportunity to consider Power To Be. I’m confident you will come away a better person, having gained a breadth and depth of knowledge which will serve you long into the future.

In fact, once you’re in the orbit of Power To Be, you’ll find it can be inescapable, and that’s exactly what’s happened to me. Not satisfied to simply end my practicum once my course requirements were met, I proposed a new role for myself, and now volunteer with the MarComm team, leading  Power To Be’s social media, in order for to continue supporting this incredible organization.

To learn more about volunteering and practicum placements with Power To Be check out our volunteer page.

This blog was written by Nate Charbonneau, a volunteer with Power To Be. As a multimedia communications specialist, Nate’s passion is to share people’s stories and experiences with others, and to travel the seas, exploring the cultures and histories of peoples around the world!