Dynamic team meets community need for inclusive adventures

From a program facilitator in Victoria, to curriculum coordinator in Vancouver and now regional manager for Power To Be’s Lower Mainland programs, Simon Parr’s own progression in the organization is reflective of the approach he takes to program design for participants.

It starts with learning foundational skills to hands-on experience and opportunities to use new skills. And with his own experiences in a variety of Power To Be programs, he is poised to help the Vancouver team expand its reach and deepen the impact of the organization in the community.

“This job is about setting people up for success,” he says. “It’s developing their skills and decision-making ability that they can apply in a real-world situation. It is my job to help more people access our programs and help new staff deliver them.”

The Vancouver team designed and facilitated 175 program experiences 2016. There are day programs that see participants kayaking through Deep Cove and off Cates Park, climbing at Base5 in Coquitlam and hiking through Lynn Valley Park. There are also programs designed to work as a series that focus on building specific skill sets. During these programs, they experience a series of adventures designed to teach skills as varied as camp craft, navigation, nutrition and mindfulness. The staff team ran a backpacking and camping series for youth from Covenant House in 2016 that started with basic camp skills such as using a stove or setting up a tarp, and culminated in an overnight trek in Garabaldi Provincial Park.

At the core of every program is a team of staff who are committed to empowering participants. “They have amazing kindness and patience, and they make sure participants are happy and getting what they need from our programs,” he says of the staff in Vancouver.

As Power To Be enters its 19th year of operations, community need is driving its growth. Programs have been offered in Vancouver since 2006, and have scaled up significantly in the last two years to meet demand. What started as primarily a summer kayaking program has grown into a dynamic and diverse program offering that is responsive to the community and built on the opportunities afforded to it by the natural spaces surrounding the city.

“Vancouver is a city of evolving needs. From diversity of cultures to the effect of being in a city, there is a greater need to connect people more deeply to their surroundings and themselves,” says Jason Cole, Director of Programs. “There is a high tempo of life and a lot of our programs slow things down.”

The addition of the new regional manager position, and opportunities for more program facilitators in the summer season ensures the organization can keep pace with the interest from the community, he adds.

The organization aims to be nimble, developing programs for emerging populations that identify a need. In Vancouver that has meant more youth and adults living with mental health issues and partnerships with organizations such as B.C. Children’s Hospital and Covenant House. As the network of partners and resources grows, so too does the team’s ability to support participants through programs or refer them to other services that meet their needs.

“We are poised to inspire people through our message and services even if we don’t connect with them directly,” Jason says. “Our strategic plan has us looking beyond a given year or type of program. We are building a nimbleness so we can continue to be relevant and responsive to the people who need us.”

It’s a sentiment Simon echoes. While the city is surrounded by stunningly beautiful natural spaces, not everyone can or does access them.

“The groups we work with, we can take them to places they have never been before,” he says. “The goal is to build a sense of community, a place they belong. It’s tricky to find that in a big city.”

Get Out There - Adventure Recommendations from Simon

Urban parks

There are so many parks and gardens to explore in Vancouver. Beaver Lake in Stanley Park and VanDusen Botanical Garden come to mind.

Cypress Falls, North Vancouver

This amazing place is exactly how it sounds. If you are looking for solitude in nature, head to this park where a day hike will take you away from people and into the forest where you will find a waterfall.

Whyte Lake, West Vancouver

A short hike will take you the beautiful Whyte Lake, often frozen over during the winter. Keep an eye out for eagles.