Six creative and adventurous adults from different parts of BC reached Vancouver's shores after a 25-day 1,400 km trip down one of the world's greatest salmon rivers - the mighty Fraser.
Traveling by by canoe, raft, shuttle van and on foot, the Sustainable Living Leadership Program participants camped under the stars along the banks of the river, spent their days learning about stewardship, communities, sustainable living, watersheds and ecosystem health. They began their no trace camping trip in the headwaters of the Fraser River near Jasper and traveled through ten of BC's fourteen biogeoclimatic zones where communities along the way hosted special cultural celebrations for the travellers.
Now in its 11th year, the program is facilitated by the Rivershed Society of BC (RSBC), a non profit organization formed after Fin Donnelly`s 1995 "Swim for Life" down the Fraser River. It has since been dedicated to improving the health of both the Fraser River Basin.
Jacquie Lanthier, Programs Coordinator and Facilitator for RSBC is passionate about facilitating programs that inspire creative encounters with the outdoors and affirmed, "We want to inspire leaders to take action to promote stewardship. The individuals who travel this route fall in love with the experience and are inspired to protect the river."
The selected participants come into the program with a plan for a community project. Throughout the trip there are many opportunities to network, secure resources and get feedback from like minds before they return home to work with local organizations to implement their community-building plan. Education awareness, advocacy, monitoring, restoration or social ventures are the key issues addressed by the plans of the participants.
Local resident Kim North is a society board member and joined the leadership group part-way through the expedition in Williams Lake to evaluate the program. She attested the program's value and asserted, "It is an amazing program. This gives upcoming leaders an experience that creates a passion. They will take this environmental message into whatever industry they work in." With regards to her own experience journeying down the Fraser North said, "I have been on parts of the trip before but coming through Lillooet was like a cathedral and everyone stopped talking. The river is powerful and yet fragile."
After being encouraged, connecting directing with the environment on a challenging excursion and learning about care for local watersheds, participants are prepared to take this new knowledge of sustainable living practices to spearhead environmental activism and eco programs while championing public policy solutions regarding rivershed health in their own communities. The leaders are models of the tranformational impact of experiential learning.