Photo: Camp Suzuki ignites diverse network of Rouge champions

By Aryne Sheppard, manager of community leadership

What do yoga, butterfly rearing and verbatim theatre have to do with the David Suzuki Foundation? Until recently, the answer would've been not much, really. But that is about to change. These ideas were raised as projects that may become a reality in the next eight months as a result of Camp Suzuki, our new leadership-training program.

Before the holidays we put out a request for proposals from folks that live, work and play near the Rouge Park. We were looking for groups and individuals keen to start new community projects that celebrate the natural wonders of the Rouge, a wild green space in the heart of the GTA that is destined to become Canada's first urban National Park.

We were truly amazed by the response. From more than 50 team applications, we selected a dozen teams to participate. These unique and inspiring teams come from the communities of Markham, Pickering, Scarborough and Toronto and represent a diverse range of backgrounds and interests.

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In addition to the requisite naturalist and outdoors groups, the teams include a settlement agency, Chinese-Canadian youth group, students from high schools from Pickering and Scarborough, a local history museum and a university performing arts department.

This past weekend will held the first of three leadership workshops. There, the twelve teams are learning more about the David Suzuki Foundation and the Rouge, but most importantly will be getting hands-on training on how to successfully initiate and launch a community project.

Back home in their communities, our teams will host projects ranging from community picnics, tree-planting days and family nature hikes, to camping weekends, theatre productions and outdoor classroom programs. David Suzuki Foundation staff will assist and mentor the groups throughout, with the hope that all of the groups launch their project in the next eight months.

The aim of the Camp Suzuki program is to bring together people of diverse backgrounds under a shared purpose so that they feel empowered and inspired to play their part in creating a truly sustainable world. We hope to provide a helpful nudge for these amazing community leaders to take ownership and create positive change in their communities.

As Canadians, we can create a new vision of a shared future where we can lead rich, rewarding lives without undermining our natural world — the very elements that ensure them. We hope Camp Suzuki is a springboard for this new kind of environmental advocacy.

January 30, 2012

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