The West Coast Ambassador Program offers residents and visitors a chance to learn about local culture as well as regional flora and fauna. (Tami Belliveau photo)

The West Coast Ambassador Program offers residents and visitors a chance to learn about local culture as well as regional flora and fauna. (Tami Belliveau photo)

Ambassador Program boosts local knowledge in Tofino and Ucluelet

Raincoast Education Society teams up with Tofino and Ucluelet Chambers of Commerce

MARK MAFTEI

Special to the Westerly

Each year, the Raincoast Education Society, the Tofino Long Beach Chamber of Commerce and the Ucluelet Chamber of Commerce are proud to offer the West Coast Ambassador Program (WCAP), a series of in-depth classes that highlight various aspects of life out here on the west coast. The program has been around in one form or another for many years and the current curriculum reflects almost two decades of constant refinement and adjustment. The goal has always been the same though: to provide a means for anybody and everybody to learn more about the region and what makes it special and to provide a foundation of knowledge that will promote stewardship, pride and community spirit.

The WCAP offers participants the opportunity to dive deep into some of the most fascinating aspects of life on the west coast. The Marine Ecology course takes you from the shoreline to the depths of the sea and introduces you not just to the creatures you are bound to encounter nearby, but to the larger systems at play that drive our winds and waves and weather. Terrestrial Ecology takes you into the living forest and highlights the amazing diversity of one of the richest ecosystems on the planet. Small Town, Big Picture tries to tackle the impossible task of compressing 10,000 years of history into three hours of class time and does a pretty good job of it! These latter courses (one specific to Tofino and one to Ucluelet) combine an overview of the physical geography, the cultural history and the current identity of these communities.

The courses are tailored to be more or less universal in appeal, but we do strive to reach one key demographic – front-line service staff. Tofino and Ucluelet are tourist towns and host well over one million visitors per year. The vast majority of these visitors are here for a short time during which they interact mostly with front-desk staff, servers, guides, etc. The reality of a regional community of less than five thousand people hosting more than a million visitors each year is that many if not most of these front-line workers are themselves new or temporary arrivals to the community. The WCAP courses are designed to give newly arrived members of our community a crash course covering all of this and more. This inspires confidence, builds community and highlights local values.

While front-line workers should certainly consider attending these courses (and employers consider recommending them to their staff!), that doesn’t mean even the most long-term locals won’t find something of value. Each and every year we host a significant proportion of folks who were born and raised out here and who have taken these courses time and again only to learn something new each time. The WCAP courses aren’t just instructional, they are a celebration of all of the amazing people and places and things that make living out here so rewarding!

Check out our full line-up of courses and register – for free – www.raincoasteducation.org.

A huge thank you to our extraordinary instructors who deliver these classes, to the Tofino Long Beach Chamber of Commerce and the Ucluelet Chamber of Commerce who provide critical financial support for this program and to all of the community partners that work together to constantly improve and refine the content that goes into this remarkable community resource.

Mark Maftei is the executive director of the Raincoast Education Society

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