Sitting in my first interview for a volunteer position at the Vancouver Aquarium over a year ago, I had yet to realise how large the organization is, how many inspiring people I would meet on this journey, and how many opportunities were open to volunteers of all ages. I have experienced so much as a volunteer and have now taken on a new role as an engagement writer, sharing the stories of volunteers like me.
I was excited to learn more about the Youth Volunteer Program, which allows kids aged 14-18 to volunteer independently at the Vancouver Aquarium. There are more than 300 youth accepted into this program every year and they can volunteer in five different departments. I connected with a youth volunteer, Alexis, who has taken to her task like a duck to water. For Alexis, what started as a short-term four-month placement has evolved into a two-year experience with Ocean Wise’s Curriculum Programs team. I met with her and asked what is her favourite part of volunteering at the Vancouver Aquarium.
“I love having the opportunity to work closely with intertidal animals in the Wet Labs,” says Alexis. “I have had the privilege to observe the animals closely, learn about their anatomy and behaviour individually and with other animals. I have also learned so much from my coordinators and the other volunteers who love exchanging interesting facts with me.”
The Wet Lab where Alexis volunteers is a behind-the-scenes aquatic classroom where students can get up close with local marine animals. In this classroom, Alexis has been able to watch other volunteers and over time, hone her own teaching skills. For any age, delivering a lesson plan to a group of students is impressive, if not a little daunting. But Alexis says that her coordinators are very supportive and go out of their way to provide volunteers with tools to succeed. In addition to teaching, Alexis has also gained knowledge about animal husbandry, feeding and cleaning the habitats.
She has extended her placement well beyond the official placement, so I asked her what keeps her coming back.
“I have had so many great experiences with the staff and volunteers,” says Alexis. “They are positive, friendly and answer my questions with honesty and integrity. I also appreciate Ocean Wise’s mission and how they endeavour to make a positive contribution to the environment.”
It is certainly inspiring to meet someone so young who is not only passionate, but committed to education and inspiring others about ocean conservation. Would you like to get involved in amazing and inspiring guests at the Aquarium? Bring a friend and come to the Aquarium on April 15, 24 or 30 to hear what you can do to contribute to Ocean Wise’s mission. Registration is required, so sign up here.
This blog post was written by a volunteer engagement writer, Faye.