Tofino draws workers from all over the country and around the world. The Ambassador Program provides a suitable introduction to this unique town.
As described on its website, the aim of this program is “to build a strong and healthy community, encouraging a positive attitude among responsible citizens, improving community relations with visitors, and growing support for the diversity and well-being of area businesses.”
Having attended the first course, Small Town, Big Picture, on May 9th, I can readily confirm this to be an accurate description.
Since its inception in 2011, the courses offered are free of charge due to funding from Tourism Tofino in partnership with the Raincoast Education Society (RES) and the Tofino-Long Beach Chamber of Commerce.
Executive Director of the RES, Dan Harrison, explains that the courses are revised and updated every two years to stay “relevant, accessible and fresh.”
Harrison is aware that these courses can reach a lot of different people and maintains that the goal is to “inspire and educate people to become ambassadors of the community.”
It is for this reason that the bulk of the classes are offered in May and June, when people are getting hired, so that the information is fresh in mind when tourists begin to arrive.
Small Town, Big Picture is an introductory class and recommended prerequisite for the more advanced courses: Rainforest Ecology (taught by Dan Harrison), Marine Ecology (RES Field School Coordinator, Ariane Batic) and Nuu-chah-nulth Landscape (Gisele Martin).
While the more advanced sessions dive deeper into local ecology and First Nations’ perspectives, the focus of Small Town, Big Picture is a general overview of Tofino.
It is taught by an ‘all-knowing Tofitian’ in the person of Nora Boileau Morrison who, herself, admits, “I’m always learning too. Being a part of this program reminds me that the learning never ends here.”
With the goal of fostering “a proud, responsible and informed community to connect people to place by strengthening local knowledge, to enhance visitor experience,” Small Town, Big Picture begins with a historical overview, provides introductory information on geology, climatology and oceanology.
Information is then presented on relevant topics such as safety—earthquake and tsunami preparedness, the unpredictability of the ocean, respecting wildlife, plus campfire and Multiple-Use Path etiquette—local businesses and organisations, and the values of tourism.
While the information is generally broad, Harrison explains that this course is designed to “get your feet wet and we’ll show you how to learn more.”
Kristin Davis, from Queensland, Australia, attended Small Town, Big Picture with plans to partake in other courses as well.
She believes it’s “important to be informed citizens” and that we are “in a better position to protect this ecosystem when we know more about it.”
Participants receive an Ambassador Card providing discounts at participating businesses found on the Chamber of Commerce website.
Courses are three hours and information can be found at www.raincoasteducation.org.