The Pass it On Project had a late start in Uclulet, but the insights and learning from this unique collection of five distinct communities are enriching and enlightening.  The five communities include Opitsaht, Esowista, and Hitacu which are reserves, as well as Tofino and Uclulet. Opitsaht is a 5-minute boat ride from Tofino and Esowista is located just off well-known Long Beach. There used to be a thriving forestry and fishing industry in this area but the main source of employment now comes from tourism. There is a long history of environmental activism in these communities. In addition, most families like to keep active with a wide variety of physical activities such as surfing, marathon running and other sports and cultural events.

Due to the diversity as well as predominance of Aboriginal people in these spread out communities, the project really wanted to foster as much cross-pollination as possible by organizing more group activities (gym games, sleepover and movie nights) that would assist with geographic, transportation, and cultural issues.

Marika Swan, Mentor Supervisor along with Project Coordinator, Sarah Hogan report that they have a very large and thriving group of young women with 9 mentors and 18 mentees! Based on those numbers, group activities seemed to make the most sense. So far the initial mixer has been the highlight of all the activities.

“We kicked off with a meal cooked by the mentors. Interestingly enough, although through dinner they were a little shyer, this was the time where the young women made the really special connections that we saw reflected in the mentor/mentee top 3 choices forms.”

In order to honour the diverse backgrounds of the mentors and mentees a wide variety of approaches and beliefs have been encouraged in their circles.

“We asked a local elder to come and welcome us to the territory and then some of the young women led us in a spirited ‘appreciation song’.”

As the project draws to a close, Marika has this to share about acceptance and inclusiveness:

“I feel that it is important to create spaces that are inclusive to our two-spirited, queer and transgendered youth which are often the most vulnerable and at the same time our most powerful teachers. It has been hard with extremely limited hours to understand how to address this is in a community where it is so rarely openly talked about. We need to be fearless in addressing spaces that exclude students who do not fit into the ‘girl’ and ‘boy’ categories in our schools.”

We wish Marika and Sarah continued success in forging new territory in their community and trust they will have an opportunity to model their fearless approach to mentorship and leadership among youth in the future.

To see the Pass It On program in action in the Uclulet and surrounding areas, have a look at Marika’s new blog:

Chris Gay – Pass It On Phase II Coordinator