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Ocean Ambassadors summer camp designed for girls ready to save the world

Leadership program aims to inspire girls age 13-15 to be passionate nature protectors

Who is going to save the world?

The folks at the North Shore-based non-profit organization Ocean Ambassadors Canada have pinpointed one particular group they think has what it takes to rescue Earth from its current crash course with environmental disaster. It’s girls, aged 13-15.

And while they’re out there saving the world, they’ll have a lot of fun too.

That’s the general concept behind OAC’s newest summer camp, the Leadership Program for Young Women. The five-day camp for girls, genderfluid/non-binary and trans youth aged 13-15 is meant to build leadership and communication skills while promoting ocean health education, self-awareness, creativity, and meaningful connections to nature, according to OAC co-founder Alison Wood.

“The whole idea of having fun on the water is to get them to feel that connection and want to protect it, and then they’ll naturally want to learn about ocean health,” said Wood. The camp offers lots of exploring in nature, stand-up paddle boarding, body movement and physical activity, while also incorporating environmental learning from camp instructors as well as outside experts such as a marine biologist, an aquaculture researcher and a zero waste innovator.  

“It’s really all about Jacques Cousteau’s ‘protect what you love’ – inspiring them to be real ocean ambassadors, so that they’ll have a lifelong desire to spend time in nature,” said Wood. “[We’re] developing the next generation of leaders.”

And why girls aged 13 to 15? It’s a passionate group, but also one that is at a real-life crossroads, said Wood. It’s a demographic that she and co-founder Jenn Wesanko had in mind when they created OAC four years ago, said Wood.

“It hit me first when I was around Grade 9 in school, and all of my friends who were super fun and wanting to do all of these active things, all of a sudden were happy spending Saturday at the mall … and pretending that they were not good at anything physical,” she said. “[We see a lot of] young women moving away from playing, and playing in nature, whether it be doing things on the beach, in the ocean, in the forest. And we see them, particularly now, moving to screens and doing less physical things.”

OAC offers a range of camps and courses for boys and girls, based out of the Hollyburn Sailing Club at Ambleside Beach in West Vancouver, the Kitsilano Yacht Club in Vancouver, or the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club in Vancouver. Their are still spots available for their morning Tiderider Adventure Camps for kids age 8-12 at the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club, while the full-day Tiderider camps for kids age 8-14 at Hollyburn and Kitsilano are currently sold out. 

This, however, is the first time they’ll offer a leadership course solely for young girls, and spots are still available. It's a camp that is dear to the hearts of OAC's co-founders, said Wood.

“It’s sort of returning to the roots of why [we] started Ocean Ambassadors, the idea of connecting young women with the ocean and getting them reconnected with nature and inspiring them to love it and to care for it,” she said.

The aim is to create an experience that extends beyond the one-week camp, with attendees heading back to school inspired to make the world a better, healthier place. For instance, the campers will spend part of the week learning about the world of “fast fashion” and how our disposable consumer culture has resulted in microfibres ending up in the ocean all around Vancouver and Vancouver Island. Camp organizers hope the girls will take that knowledge with them and take action, maybe by starting a clothing swap at school or getting into thrifting instead of buying new clothing all the time.

 “There’s a real call to action,” said Wood. “We definitely don’t want to be just another way to spend time in the summer.”

For more information on the camp or other programs, visit the Ocean Ambassadors Canada website

This article originally appeared in the Summer Registration special feature section of the May 19 print edition of the North Shore News.