Ocean Bridge Learning Journey provides new experiences for youth


My learning journey to reconnect with nature

By Ben MacMillan

Meeting new people, spending time outdoors, and learning from community leaders have always been areas of interest for me growing up, so when I got the opportunity to do all three at the same time, I jumped right in.

Starting in May 2021, I have been involved with Ocean Bridge, a volunteer program for youth run across Canada by #NatureForAll partner Ocean Wise which brings 120 young Canadians between the ages of 18 and 30 to engage with and empower other youth towards ocean conservation. Throughout this 11-month volunteer term, youth participate in various activities through cohorts based on their location.

With the COVID-19 pandemic having changed almost every aspect of our lives, we initially met each other in a virtual setting in the spring, and only got to collaborate virtually.

However, we all got to finally meet each other from September 17 to September 27 thanks to a 10-day Learning Journey throughout Nova Scotia. The purpose of the trip was to learn and provide service to community projects we visited, collaborate with peers and community members, and reflect on what we experienced.

I knew this trip was going to be a great opportunity and a lot of fun. What I wasn’t expecting was the realization of how much the last year had impacted my mental health and how important nature is to my well-being.

During the journey, every day was an opportunity for us to meet someone new. One of my favourite was when we traveled to Birchtown to learn about environmental racism from Louise Delisle and Vanessa Hartley. This session was incredibly insightful on the hardships that marginalized communities face every day. There are several towns throughout Nova Scotia and Canada that have had to fight for clean water, and still continue fighting today.

Other highlights included meeting the Mi’kmaw Conservation Group and CB Wetlands and Environmental Specialists to learn about wetlands assessments and river management in the Bay of Fundy; visiting the Treaty Truck House #2, located on the Avon River, where we learned about the importance of tidal water flows to fish habitat; and staying at the Deanery, a local organization with a focus on the environment, the arts, and the community.

We finished the journey with a three-day kayaking trip through the 100 Wild Islands, an archipelago stretching 30 km along Nova Scotia’s eastern shore. Our guides, Scott Cunningham, Gayle Wilson and Paul Wolfe, were some of the kindest and most knowledgeable people I’ve ever met, and made our adventure a breeze.

This learning journey made me realize that when surrounded by the right people, we can all achieve great things together. But what was really the most important thing that I took away from this was the need to connect with nature. Whether it was staying in a cabin along the foggy South Shore, or kayaking along the coast, my relationship with nature was at an all time high.

Looking back, the pandemic brought a lot of things in my life to a halt, similar to almost everyone. What I didn’t realize was the toll it was taking on my mental health. Over the past several months, the uncertainty of the world was really weighing on me. The learning journey provided me with a chance to slow down and reconnect with what’s important.

Speaking with others, learning new things, and being surrounded with beautiful nature everyday was just what I needed. From meeting inspirational community leaders, to simply having lunch every day under the shade of a tree, the Ocean Bridge Learning Journey was an incredible experience!


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