Clayoquot Biosphere Trust helping West Coast communities thrive

“There’s no limits to what we can do when we work together.”

Coastal difference-makers recently received an $80,000 infusion into their unique and inspiring initiatives.

The Carving on the Edge Society, Surfrider Pacific Rim, Raincoast Education Society and Kliilth Pi-taap Taaqumths Men’s Group each received $20,000 cheques from the Clayoquot Biosphere Trust during a recent celebration held at the Tofino Botanical Gardens.

The Carving on the Edge Festival Society plans to spend their funding on their ‘Putting the culture in the hands of our children’ project where they will partner with the Language Keepers Society and cultural educator Gisele Martin to offer intergenerational language and culture programming.

“There’s going to be a lot to cover over the next few months and then a lot of it will be shared at the Carving on the Edge Festival in September,” said project coordinator Helene Descoteaux at the April 20 event.

The local Surfrider crew will put their funding towards a partnership with the Ahousaht First Nation to organize remote beach cleans and tackle garbage that’s piling up on hidden beaches

“We’ve noticed since starting remote cleans that it is such a massive need. Those beaches are in dire need of our help,” said Surfrider Pacific Rim chair Jason Sam. “We are super excited to go out and undertake all this awesomeness.”

The Raincoast Education Society’s funding will go towards the field school program it plans to offer to Ucluelet Elementary School students. The program has been running at Tofino’s Wickaninnish Community School since 2014 and meshes the B.C. curriculum with the West Coast’s natural environment to create outdoor classrooms where students enjoy experiential and educational learning.

“Instead of learning about science from a textbook inside, they can go out onto the beach and learn about ecosystems,” said RES executive director Mark Maftei.

“We’ve been running the program in Tofino for a few years now and it’s been a dream for a while to run it in Ukee as well,” added Field School Coordinator Ariane Batic. “Giving everyone that equal opportunity to have those hands-on, outdoor experiences…and to create opportunities for our youth in Tofino and Ucluelet to work together in this partnership as well.”

The Kliilth Pi-taap Taaqumths Men’s Group was formed to help communities heal together by supporting each other.

“Part of healing is not just talking about it. It’s about our culture. Bringing our culture back, bringing our language back. Having the singing changes the energy, it uplifts people, it transforms people, it allows us to be who we are, and if we don’t have that how can we move forward together?” said group member Dwayne Martin.

“We put our health and social needs on the back-burners too much. We’ve got to be about action, not just words. Our men are standing up because often, sadly, it is the men in our community that cause a lot of the dysfunction, a lot of the abuse, a lot of the alcohol. We’re trying to change that in a healthy way. Not to preach to anybody. Not to look down on anybody. Just to stand together as healthy men.”

He said the group set up a centre at the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation’s Long Beach community and weekly gatherings at the centre are open to everyone.

“We’re trying to be more than just a healthy men’s group. We want to impact people in our community. Families, mothers, youth, children,” he said. “There’s no limits to what we can do when we work together.”

The funding stemmed from the CBT’s new Vital Grants funding stream, which is a reinvention of its Call for Projects Grants. In the past, the Call for Projects dished out annual small grants to about 20 organizations but, after consulting with community stakeholders and funding colleagues, the Trust decided fewer, larger, grants would better help tackle the region’s regional priorities and complex challenges, according to the CBT’s executive director Rebecca Hurwitz.

“We heard a lot of appreciation for the flexibility of our programs and for the work that we’re doing in the communities, but one comment really stood out and that was one grantee simply stated, ‘Small grants make it difficult to address big issues,’” Hurwitz said. “That comment really hit a chord with us.”

She said the CBT has spent the past 18 years promoting cultural, social, economic and environmental sustainability through a variety of funding streams in an effort to work towards the “ambitious aim to solve some of the world’s most critical sustainability issues by 2030” set by the United Nations

“The CBT is making every effort to address these goals with local community action, research, education and programs that promote the health of individuals, communities and ecosystems,” she said at the April 20 event adding that she is excited to see what the first four Vital Grant recipients produce.

“Supporting projects like yours, is one of the ways that we can work together to meet these goals and the shared mandates of creating a better future both locally and internationally.”

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Surfrider Pacific Rim’s youth team recently tackled Flores Island and the foundation is set to partner with the Ahousaht First Nation to conduct more remote beach cleanups thanks to funding from the Clayoquot Biosphere Trust. (Photo - Marcie Callewaert)

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