By Kevan Coyle, Power To Be’s Volunteer Lead

Volunteers are integral to the success of our Wilderness School. They help us create a welcoming, safe, and supportive learning environment for participants to build positive relationships, learn about self-care, and push out their comfort zones through dynamic nature-based programming. Today, we’d like to express our deep appreciation for Nicole Gaul, a program volunteer who continues to make a tremendous difference in the lives of Wilderness School participants.

Nicole is drawn to natural spaces because of the mental health benefits that nature offers. Throughout her youth she learned to kayak, canoe, hike, rock climb and camp in the Sooke Hills and these formative experiences taught her that being outdoors offers peace, solace, and comfort. Her search for a community that values kindness, inclusivity and empathy brought her to Power To Be, where she brings her lived experience with nature-based wellness into her role as a Wilderness School Volunteer.

When asked to reflect on her experience supporting the Wilderness School, Nicole notes how fortunate she feels to witness and support young individuals as they come together to form a community. “A particularly memorable moment for me was in the early days of Wilderness School 15; we were driving and playing the Alphabet Car Game (if you know you know). We were searching for the pesky letter X and drove all throughout Langford on the hunt. To our disappointment the elusive X got away from us, but the excitement and silliness of scanning billboards and store signs as a group was really wholesome. To me, that organic playfulness really felt like a bonding moment for the group.”

Mike Milner, one of our Wilderness School Program Facilitators, notes the impact that Nicole has on fostering an environment where participants can connect naturally, “Nicole is so incredibly present with the youth when she joins us on a program, she has a way of empathetically connecting that helps them to open and engage with themselves and each other in an authentic and playful way. Her ability to read the group and create support for them is uncanny, and her kind and thoughtful way of being brings a truly positive and inspiring energy to the group.”

This spirit of play is important to the Wilderness School program and all other programs that Power To Be offers. One of the many reasons we appreciate Nicole is for her ability to show up with playfulness when interacting with Wilderness School participants. Her personality shines through when asked what she’s learned during her time volunteering with this program: “To me, to play is to laugh, be silly, be curious, and make mistakes, trusting that I can show up exactly as I am and that I will be accepted by my peers. I have noticed that as we age, play evolves from simple interactions to complex webs as we navigate fears of rejection, loneliness, and social isolation. My experience with the Wilderness School has shown me that allowing ourselves to play takes courage, vulnerability, and trust in those around us. Play is a path to finding common ground, despite our differences, and the Wilderness School reminds me that there is no age restriction to play. The Wilderness School inspires me to be more playful in my life beyond Power To Be, to show up in spaces exactly as I am, and to invite those around me to do the same.”

In celebrating Nicole, we recognize her contributions to the essence of Power To Be – a community nurtured by empathy, play, and the transformative power of genuine connections. Her presence is a gift that continues to enrich our Wilderness School, inspiring us all to embrace the beauty of nature and the authentic connections that play nurtures. Thank you for being a cherished member of our community Nicole!