Photo: How Camp Suzuki: Howe Sound 2016 helped Vision Youth grow

By Winnie Hwo, Senior Public Engagement Specialist

Roughly six months ago, I planted a seed. I met a group of conscientious parents, their teenage children and the co-founder of Vision Youth, Eric Li, in Markham, Ontario.

I presented to them what Camp Suzuki: Howe Sound 2015 did and what Camp Suzuki: Howe Sound 2016 will do for their fast-growing teenagers.

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Fast forward to early August, when eight participants from Vision Youth joined us for Camp Suzuki: Howe Sound at Camp Fircom on Gambier Island, B.C.

Aiken, Johnathan, Keefe, Curtis, Connie, Eric, Alex and his mother Pansy joined the David Suzuki Foundation's Camp Suzuki for young adults. They came with their team lead and Vision Youth gold program vice-president Brian Yee, who is only a few years older than the group. Together, they made history for me, Vision Youth and the David Suzuki Foundation. Here's what they had to say.

Connie Chou: "This camp has motivated me to take action. I no longer want to spend my time lying down on my bed or staying at home."

Keefe Chan: "This camp has raised my level of awareness around First Nations and the environmental issues which impact our lives."

Jonathan Yeo: "Camp Suzuki: Howe Sound has widened my knowledge of the environment and the role we play. It will help me make sound decisions as a leader in school or in projects while keeping the environment in mind."

Eric Li: "The workshops have made me realize change begins with us and we can make an impact no matter how big and small."

Curtis Lee: "The camp showed me the benefit of unplugging myself and taking in the nature around me."

Aiken Chau: "I am bringing back a different perspective on environmental issues. I am much more conscious of how pollution impacts us and I believe Camp Suzuki: Howe Sound would benefit my city, Toronto! I look forward to making this a reality."


As a public engagement specialist, I could not have expected a better outcome — young people from diverse backgrounds joined to support and learn about the environment and life. The Vision Youth participation this year not only enriched our camp, it also expanded our horizon in environmental public engagement. And there is nothing more gratifying to learn that the feeling was mutual!

Curtis Lee: "Camp Suzuki: Howe Sound not only provided us the opportunity to get outside of Ontario and away from our parents, it also helped us learn more about the environment and the First Nations in Canada."

Aiken Chau: "Camp Suzuki: Howe Sound was a lot more than what we expected. We thought it would be a typical camp-like environment. Instead, we learned a lot more about ourselves with a focus on personal identity."

Making new friends and learning what we can do if we embrace the environment and diversity that surrounds us are crucial to a sustainable future. I have a feeling this will not be the last time we hear from these fantastic young people. And it surely will not the be last time they hear from me!


According to Yee, VY's gold program lead and vice-president, Vision Youth is a volunteer run leadership development program based in Toronto. Their program focuses on giving youth the skills and knowledge to become leaders within their communities by introducing participants to outdoor, community and interpersonal leadership.

September 15, 2016

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Sep 20, 2016
3:07 PM

Akira, thank you so much for sharing this heartwarming story. I cannot agree with you more and am enlightened when readers share stories like the one you just did. THANK YOU.

Sep 16, 2016
1:50 PM

Yes it is the grass roots movement which can change our course to avoid catastrophe. Everybody must do something to protect nature. We do not need to wait until we get PhD to start something to improve.

I am not a specialist in environmental science. I am a mathematician. But I am very moved by recent experience. When I was walking on the street of Toronto, a bird hit a building window and fell on my chest and dropped to the ground. It was not moving. But I decided to give a try and picked up the injured bird gave it some basic first aid and took it home as it was already at early evening. The bird responded the first aid and came back to consciousness. It was a strikingly beautiful bird and so small. I looked at a book and found out that it was a migrating bird heading South to Mexico or even South America. The bird trusted us so much that it took some fish row and water. It slept in the palm of my wife. I learned that these birds turn into a feather ball to keep itself warm.

Next day, as it was a migrating bird, we took it to Toronto Wild Life Centre. They examined the bird and said that they could put it on the migrating track so that it can join in the migration to South.

The bird for us was an ambassador from nature and it was such a privilege for us to have opportunity that he shared some moment with us.

This bird really made us think about the harm our totally selfish “civilization” did to the nature just for our greed to make money.

I am a descendant of Ainu, a Japanese aboriginal person. We share a lot with the First Nation’s people. Similar culture, similar faith. We both agree that none of us humanity owns this nature. No one can take this land when we pass away. It is the nature which owns us.

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