A group that organized 1,400 volunteers to remove 300 cubic metres of invasive plants throughout the region in the past year has created two new positions to run a youth leadership program, with the goal of passing on its community-organizing expertise.
The positions are largely funded by the Victoria Foundation.
“I think we have cracked the code on community engagement,” said Amanda Evans, director of programs and partnerships with the Greater Victoria Green Team, which was founded in 2013. “It’s not just about removing invasive weeds — it’s also a sense of belonging that the activity fosters.”
The group, which works with municipal and provincial parks, non-profit organizations and stewardship groups, has more than 4,000 volunteers who remove invasive plants, plant native species, pick up garbage and prepare and harvest vegetable plots.
“We need fearless and powerful environmental leaders who can effectively organize communities,” said Evans. “But community organization is a craft best learned through hands-on experience. It’s difficult to get the job, especially when you don’t have the experience.
“We plan to help youth gain those skills in a paid position so that they can one day pass on the baton.”
The organization has already filled one position, with the second expected to be filled in early fall.
The first hire is lifelong nature lover Maria Varem, who is completing a Restoration of Natural Systems diploma at the University of Victoria.
Varem says she is passionate about public outreach and science communication and has enjoyed engaging with the Green Team’s community of volunteers.
“How cool it is to meet all these new people who all come out because they care?” she said.
Evans said getting out and doing something with others reduces social isolation and is beneficial for mental health and wellbeing.
Volunteers are often new to Victoria, sometimes looking to meet like-minded people and can range in age from 14 to 40, the group said.