Power To Be staff give back through volunteer work

Wheelbarrow tracks, the thwack of an axe and hands in the dirt marked a good day for Power To Be. Temporarily transplanted to Galiano Island, the staff team was put to work under the October sun to help another non-profit, the Galiano Conservancy Association.

“It was great to see how easy it was for our group of people to show up and make a difference,” says Jason Cole, Director of Programs. “I took a moment to step back and see everyone doing something. There was laughter, fun and productivity.”

As part of the organization’s annual strategic planning session, time is dedicated for the staff team to give back to where they are. In previous years that has seen an accessible entrance path added at Abilitas Lodge near Merritt, and this year, a variety of projects in support of the land and education of how to be responsible stewards.

Formed in 1989, the Galiano Conservancy Association strives to preserve, protect and enhance the quality of the human and natural environment on Galiano Island. The community-based land trust has purchased tracts of land, including the newest edition of The Millard Learning Centre where Power To Be lent a hand. Spanning 188 acres, the site features more than two kilometres of waterfront, two seasonal streams, a working farm, wetlands, and more than 80 acres of mature forest. It is part of the Mid Galiano Island Protected Areas Network which is used for hiking, education programs and ecological restoration projects.

“I have been doing restoration for 20 years and when I started out it was about healing a damaged landscape by having a one-time entry into that space, doing what we could and then letting it go back to nature,” explains Keith Erikson, Executive Director of Galiano Conservancy Association. “I have come to realize we are part of that. Our presence in a space within nature is an important piece of that place. It’s an important piece of the ongoing succession of that land.”

The focus is on learning how to live on the land in a way that supports restoration and mutual benefit between people and place, he says. The Millard Learning Centre is creating teaching gardens and forests, supported by community partnerships to sustain long-term stewardship.

Conservancy staff had prepped the site with an excavator prior to the Power To Be team’s arrival, putting the focus on getting hands dirty for the day. That meant helping to put up a fence to protect the planted area from deer and preparing the more intensely planted garden beds for camas next year. For Julia Roe, Program Support Specialist, the work was a tangible reminder of the importance of connecting to nature.

“I really like learning to identify different plants and their roles in the ecosystem,” she says. “Work like this is a reminder of how much I appreciate nature and that I want to help others experience it.”

The group also helped with site maintenance, clearing fallen debris and chopping it for fire wood, as well as prepping the ground for an expansion on the classroom building to add washrooms in the future.

“The Power To Be crew did about 10 days of work in a couple of hours. It was awesome,” Erickson says. “It’s about creating a sense of community around a place. Bringing a large group of people together to work toward a single purpose is very powerful. It brings something to life.”

The parallels between the two organization’s sites, Millard and Prospect Lake respectively, are undeniable Erickson and Cole agree.

“They are doing a great job of balancing program delivery and education with sustaining the natural environment,” Cole says. “We want to learn about our footprint on the land and how our actions can contribute to the health of that land or take away from it.”

For the Conservancy, the arrival of spring next year will bring youth from Penelakut Island, Galiano Island and the surrounding Gulf Islands to Millard Learning Centre to plant the Forage Forest in the areas Power To Be helped prep.

“These types of interactions are really important for us. We can learn a lot,” Cole says. “There was a simplicity in the action and the impact.”