Our Community: Island spine trail closer to completion

This might be the year when the Vancouver Island Trail, formally known as the Vancouver Island Spine Trail, will finally be open to take hikers from Victoria to Cape Scott.

The world-class trail is 770 kilometres long, stretching from the summit of Anderson Hill in Oak Bay, on the southeast corner of the Island, to Cape Scott, on the northwest tip.

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The trail has been made possible through the efforts of volunteers who have donated thousands of hours to knit together existing backcountry hiking trails through public land and building new connecting trails since 2004.

Last year saw the raising of a totem pole along the intersection of the Cowichan Valley Trail, the Great Trail and the Vancouver Island Trail.

The Vancouver Island Trail leaves the two other trails at Lake Cowichan, then heads toward Port Alberni, over the Beaufort Range.

As with the Pacific Crest and Appalachian Trails, the Vancouver Island Trail will also touch communities along the way for re-provisioning, a warm meal and perhaps a well-earned warm bed.

The southern trailhead at Anderson Hill Park in Oak Bay was formally opened last July.

At that time, only 140 kilometres of trail, all sitting in private land owned by two forest companies, remained to be added to complete it.

A hike along the trail in its entirety will take between two to three months. People have already taken day trips and overnight trips on existing portions of the trail.

The society is accepting donations to help cover the cost of trail construction. For more information, go to vi-trail.ca.

New schooner to join SALTS fleet

The Sail and Life Training Society has announced the name of the new schooner they plan to build this year.

The schooner Leonora will join the society’s existing tall ships, Pacific Grace (a replica of the well-known schooner Robertson II) and Pacific Swift.

Both ships are regular sights in Victoria’s harbour and B.C. coastal waters, as they provide sail training for 1,700 teens and young adults annually.

Among the reasons they decided on the name include:

Lenora is a variation of Eleanor, meaning bright, shining one or light. The short form, Leo, means lion, which is in keeping with the new schooner’s power and strength and the society’s invitation to young trainees to act with courage.

Leo is also the name of the lion-shaped constellation of the stars, connecting the name to celestial navigation.

For more information, go to salts.ca.

Teacher wins award, gives away prize

A Courtenay teacher won a prestigious national teaching award and a $2,500 prize — and promptly gave it away.

Andrew Young, a self-proclaimed “geovangelist,” was recently awarded the 2019 Alex Trebek Medal for Geographic Literacy.

Awarded by the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, the medal recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions in advancing geographic education in Canada.

Young teaches geography at Georges P. Vanier Secondary School in Courtenay, where he works to connect classroom concepts to real-world issues.

Along with the medal, recipients receive a $2,500 prize, usually split evenly between the award winner and a donation in their name to a Canadian charitable organization.

“I am incredibly privileged to be a recipient of the Alex Trebek medal,” said Young. “In order to live up to the philanthropic spirit that Mr. Trebek exudes and to thank him for his tireless support of geographic education, I am donating the entire sum of this award to the B.C. Cancer Foundation for the 2020 Ride to Conquer Cancer, for which Mr. Trebek has graciously allowed me to ride in on his behalf for his battle with pancreatic cancer.”

It might be difficult for Young to find the time for the ride.

Over the past three years, Young has piloted an inter-school online version of his Grade 12 geography course to make the course accessible to all three high schools in the Courtenay area.

Last year, Young piloted a geographical sciences course that had him co-teaching with a biology teacher to highlight the environmental sciences aspects of geography, as well as the impact of global climate change.

Hundreds of students have benefited from this hands-on field studies approach to geography over the past 15 years. Young also taught a geography methods class in the faculty of education at the University of British Columbia for almost 10 years.

“He is a brilliant, wonderful ambassador for geography education and simply one of the finest people I have ever met,” said Greg Kochanuk, district principal of the Comox Valley International Student Program. “Young is one of the most gifted, giving teachers I have encountered in my career.”

For more information, go to rcgs.org/awards/ geographic_literacy.

Teen to represent Canada at tap championships

A Victoria teenager was recently selected to be part of Team Canada at the International Dance Organization World Tap Dancing Championships, to be held in Riesa, Germany.

Elayna Sing, a Grade 9 student at St. Michaels University School, was the only junior dancer selected from Vancouver Island.

Team Canada Juniors will be represented by two groups — one has been rehearsing in Toronto, and the second, comprised of tap dancers selected from the four western provinces, in Calgary under the guidance of renowned choreographer and Broadway performer Lisa La Touche.

The International Dance Organization has more than 250,000 member dancers from six continents. The world championship event is considered the Olympics of dance, with one gold, silver and bronze medal awarded for each division.

Sing has been a competitive dancer in a number of disciplines (ballet, jazz, modern and contemporary) since the age of nine.

“Tap had started to become my favourite over time,” said Sing. “While working with my physio, we found that tap did not cause the same pain in my knees, so I was able to continue performing.”

For more information, go to ido-dance.com.

Participatory budgeting pays off for youth projects

Five community-led youth projects got funding of a total of $55,000, thanks to the community voting for their inclusion in the City of Victoria’s 2019 participatory budgeting program.

Participatory budgeting is an innovative, democratic process that gives the entire community the opportunity to participate and decide how to invest a portion of the city budget.

The theme this year was for initiatives that make life better for youth in Victoria.

A total of 16 projects went out for public voting, and nearly 5,000 residents cast ballots for the ones they wanted to see funded.

“Participatory budgeting empowers our residents to create community-led projects and decide how to spend a portion of the city’s budget,” said Sharmarke Dubow, council liaison to the City of Victoria Youth Council. “I thank everyone who participated and look forward to seeing these five important projects benefit youth in our city.”

Projects receiving funding include a program to prevent youth homelessness, a music and poetry open mic for youth mental-health awareness, a youth-focused parenting program and a pollinator youth squad training and leadership program.

A talent show for youth will also receive funding in the micro-grant category.

“Victoria’s participatory budgeting process truly supports citizen-led efforts to implement projects the community wants,” said steering committee member Emma-Jane Burian. “It was great to have the youth council so directly involved bringing the community together for something that will benefit our peers.”

Details of the projects:

• What We Need: Prevention of Youth Homelessness — $27,520

This program will equip at-risk youth with resources to find housing, employment and stability through fostering independence, belonging and empowerment.

• Pollinator Partnership Canada — $18,000

This program will empower youth to take the lead in pollinator conservation in Victoria.

• Unquiet Minds II — $6,450

This community-based event will celebrate and highlight youth in their efforts to cultivate creativity toward an ongoing and theatrical discussion of mental health.

• Nobody’s Perfect Parenting Program for Young Parents — $2,400

This parenting program will provide resources to parents who are young, single, socially or geographically isolated, or who have low income or limited formal education.

2019 Participatory Budgeting micro-grant recipient:

• Quadra Village Has Talent — $500

This program will provide an opportunity for youth to explore their passions and interests and to create a space where youth can showcase their skills and talents to the rest of their community.

Participatory budgeting for 2020 will get underway this fall. The focus for 2020 is newcomers, followed by neighbourhood spaces in 2021.

For more information, go to victoria.ca/EN/main/city/ current-initiatives/ participatory-budgeting.html.

Island ambulance to aid women in Liberia

An ambulance that once served patients on Vancouver Island is on its way to west Africa to transport women to hospital during their most critical moments of childbirth.

Nanaimo-based international air medical transportation company Lifesupport Air Medical Services has donated a fully outfitted ambulance, worth $40,000, along with an emergency first-responder obstetrics training program for paramedics.

It will be transported to Liberia in west Africa by the Korle-Bu Neuroscience Foundation.

“Right now, seven young women die weekly in Liberia because they can’t get to hospital to birth their babies, which also results in the tragic death of the child,” said Marj Ratel, founder of the Korle-Bu Neuroscience Foundation. “Pregnant women have almost no support when something goes wrong during childbirth, and many die on the roadside trying to reach a hospital.”

This ambulance will be the first obstetrics-focused vehicle delivered to Liberia by the foundation. When the charity shipped an ambulance to Liberia last February, the country’s Ministry of Health noted the need among pregnant women was alarmingly high.

“We realize the immediate need is to get expectant mothers to the hospital-quickly, while also providing front line training in emergency obstetrical care to the dedicated and fledgling group of new paramedics in Liberia,” says Graham Williamson, CEO of Lifesupport Air Medical Services. “Even if the ambulance cannot transport the patient quickly enough, we will be equipping these dedicated first responders and paramedics with the skills they need to help expectant mothers and their newborns right away, by providing critical life saving interventions before arrival at the hospital.”

The new ambulance will be transported to Liberia via shipping container, alongside an incubator, neurosurgical microscope and other lifesaving medical supplies thanks to Nicola Wealth, which is paying international shipping costs, and Diamond Delivery, a partner of the foundation.

Donations are still needed to provide training for West African paramedics and health workers.

“We are short more than $50,000, which we need to fund our next training mission and transport shipments of supplies to make this ambulance a success,” said Ratel.

For more information, go to kbnf.org.

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