Guest blog by CYC’s Edrine

Edrine is a grade 11 student and a dedicated volunteer. She has participated in CVC’s Conservation Youth Corps (CYC) and the Frontline programs. She is currently a co-op student with our Community Outreach Team.

Summer is a time of opportunity with adventure lurking in every corner. It’s a season to gain experience, get involved and make new friends. It’s a time of growth and discovery.

Last summer I signed up for the Conservation Youth Corps (CYC) Summer Program. It was everything I knew summer to be and more. I spent one week in August volunteering with a crew of six other teenagers. It was my first time doing environmental work and my crew leader was a great mentor. There was never a dull moment. We had different projects to do each day. After our first day of training, I had the opportunity to work on several different environmental projects.

On Tuesday, we drove to Meadowvale Conservation Area for tree planting. It was a chilly morning, but I was beyond excited. We found the perfect sunny spot and received instructions on how to properly plant trees. Once we were set up, I went to work with my shovel. I was surprised. I never knew it was so easy to plant trees. While it can be tiring, it was the best workout ever! It was extremely rewarding to see the difference I was able to make with my crew members.

On Wednesday, we went to the Ecosource Iceland Teaching Garden. My mom is an avid gardener, but I’d never tried it.  We learned about different farming practices including succession planting and crop rotation. They also showed us a variety of plants like chili peppers, cabbage, mint, eggplant and more. At the garden, we plucked weeds, harvested plants and helped with other garden upkeep. The vegetables are actually donated to food banks. It was inspiring to see how all our hard work would help another person in need.

I love food but I’m not familiar with problems from agriculture, from food security, food waste, or GMOs (genetically modified organisms). I learned about the importance of properly growing food and my relationship with it has definitely grown. After working in the garden, we had a guided meditation session led by the Community Gardens Program Coordinator. It was pleasantly different taking time to reflect. Placing my hands on the grass, I felt connected with nature.

On my last day of CYC, we went to Fletcher’s Creek in Brampton for stream restoration. We worked with Ontario Streams to help restore habitat for the Redside Dace, a sensitive minnow affected by urban development. Lack of streamside vegetation and increased erosion has led to the decline of this fish. Stream restoration was a completely new concept to me. I had never given much thought about how we impact fish habitat. And I didn’t know I could help. We adapted the soil for flood protection, and planted trees to control erosion and flow. It was difficult, but definitely a valuable experience.

My CYC experience was an exciting adventure. I made life-long friendships with the people I met. We played games during car rides and shared stories at lunch. I also earned 35 volunteer hours for the whole week!

I had fallen in love with nature. I saw the earth for its beauty and authentic rawness. The CYC week taught me a lot about myself. It was last summer I discovered that I want to become an environmental lawyer. The issues we talked about inspired me to look for solutions. When the week ended, I knew this was an experience I’d never forget. I’ve already made plans for this coming summer to sign up for the CYC Program again.

If you want to learn more about the CYC Program, visit cvc.ca/cyc.

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