It’s hard to overstate the importance of volunteers at the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre. Volunteers are an invaluable addition to almost every part of our operations, from our conservation programs to education and outreach to caring for the animals at our Marine Mammal Rescue Centre. But the effects of our volunteer programs reach far beyond the Aquarium. The work our volunteers do here, and the skills and knowledge they gain, have ripple effects throughout the community.
This isn’t too surprising, really. Research shows that volunteerism is both fundamental to a healthy democratic society and vital for strong and resilient communities. In honour of National Volunteer Week, April 12 to 18, 2015, we’d like to take a look at the ripple effects of two of our volunteers, Jay Matsushiba and Hector Leung.
Hector volunteers in the AquaGuide program, which works to inspire high school students to use electricity efficiently. His work with us has greatly increased his respect for and knowledge of the natural world, and that’s spilled over into the licensed recreational crabbing he likes to do. Now he works to educate other crabbers in conservation practices. For example, crabbers are legally required to use crab calipers to make sure the crabs they collect meet the minimum legal size requirements. Hector not only gently reminds people who are out without them, he lets them use his. He also talks to them about humane treatment of crabs they’re returning to the water, to increase the crabs’ chances of survival. And if they find something they can’t identify, he can use his Aquarium-acquired knowledge to help figure out what it is.
Jay came onboard last summer as a work experience student in our Interpretive Delivery department. Being in a role where he had to reach out to people and interact with crowds every day meant he had to quickly gain confidence and overcome his fear of public speaking. His work here led him to discover his true love for marine biology. Now, he volunteers as a gallery educator and animal husbandry assistant, working both with the public and behind the scenes.
Through his work at the Aquarium, Jay became inspired to become a Green Team Executive Member at his secondary school, Sir Winston Churchill, and to become a leader in sustainability and environmental conservation efforts. His time working in our galleries has taught him the value of public outreach to inspire change. That’s why he’s also his school’s youth head delegate to the Vancouver School Board Sustainability Conference, which brings together over 200 participants from all over Metro Vancouver to connect and share ideas. Jay says, “The Vancouver Aquarium has helped me come alive, and I hope that what I learned there can help me do the same for others.”
We’re so grateful for the work Hector, Jay and all our other volunteers do, not just here at the Aquarium, but out in their communities to help make our vision of a sustainable world, where aquatic life is diverse and flourishing a reality.
The next volunteer recruitment starts in April please see the Vancouver Aquarium website for further details.