By Taylor Penzes
Hi, I’m Taylor. I recently graduated into the rewarding field of social work, something I’ve seen myself working in as a career ever since I was a young girl. Actually, scratch that… I wanted to be a veterinarian, but hey, I got myself a dog, so helping people instead naturally became a pretty good option.
Once I started my university career, I found myself wanting to create my own business – something that bridges the gap between social work and the environment, something where people could use nature as their healer.
Over my four years studying at Wilfrid Laurier University, I noticed that the parks were littered with waste, beaches were covered with plastic water bottles, and trails were peppered with cans. Everywhere people were allowed to go for free was not well taken care of.
In a fourth-year course, my arts professor asked the class a question: “What will you bring to this world when you leave this program?”
I was stumped. I wanted to bring people together with the environment, but our environment has also been so damaged by people, and I didn’t think our land had healed from our dangerous impacts.
I thought about shoreline cleanups, specifically the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup and the positive impact it has made on Canadians and their communities.
But what about the underwater environment?
Our shoreline collects everything that floats on the water’s surface, but what about items that sink, or are too heavy to be carried away in floods?
That’s when I came up with Project Snorkel.
I currently am the co-founder and co-leader of Project Snorkel, a grassroots operation with the intention of galvanizing the relationships people have with their waterways. The project emphasizes stewardship and outdoor recreation while ensuring an inclusive and welcoming atmosphere. With Project Snorkel, we aim to educate individuals about the impact of pollution while fostering a relationship between individuals and the water.
Project Snorkel’s main goals are:
- To engage communities in outdoor activity through community shoreline cleanups.
- To identify aquatic species that may be invasive or new to the waterway.
- To educate the community on the harmful effects of waste in our waterways.
- To deepen communities’ sense of the value of their waterways.
- To provide a place of safety to those who are interested in meeting others who share their environmental concerns.
- To create an inclusive and welcoming environment for all people.
- To provide valuable education about conservation and environmental stewardship through an engaging social media presence.
This is where Ocean Bridge, an initiative of Ocean Wise, comes into play.
In 2018, my partner, Curtis Onaczyszyn, was accepted into that year’s Ocean Bridge cohort. Through this program, he met a passionate and driven man, Chùk Odenigbo, and the two forged a very close, rewarding friendship. Chùk’s non-profit, La Poison et la Pomme, is now the host organization for our own initiative, Project Snorkel.
This year, I was accepted into the 2019 Ocean Bridge cohort, where I, too, made lasting and beautiful friendships. I recently returned from Ocean Bridge’s wilderness expedition along the North Shore of Lake Superior, and I’m still inspired by all 39 of the other brilliant and beautiful Ocean Bridge youth.
Project Snorkel hosted a community cleanup in our home community of Brantford, and we had a surprise visit from one of my fellow cohort members, Brody Robinmeyer. It’s amazing how close we have all become through just one 10-day wilderness expedition.
We were even fortunate enough to be featured in our local newspaper!
The Ocean Bridge program has brought together inspiring, bright, innovative people and guided them to create friendships and connections that help them all through the course of their year… and, possibly, the rest of their lives. Of course, I’ve also had the pleasure of being mentored by a wonderful soul, Caitlin Pierzchalski. I wouldn’t have been able to make Project Snorkel a success without her guidance and help.
With Chùk’s help, Curtis and I were able to register under his not-for-profit to apply for federal and provincial funding. We are mentored, pushed to reach outside our comfort zones and guided throughout this process, and we’re very thankful for the connections that Ocean Bridge has given us.
When the dust settled, Project Snorkel ended up completing six cleanups in communities across southwestern Ontario this summer: Woodstock, Tillsonburg, Brantford, Sauble Beach, Goderich and Grand Bend.
It’s hard to count exactly how many people we engaged with – I know we chatted with so many people walking nearby trails, swimming the beaches or just citizens who would wander up to us and ask what was going on[
We absolutely cannot wait to see what new initiatives we can bring to the table with the help of Ocean Bridge, and how we can help our beautiful home, Canada.
You can follow Project Snorkel on YouTube, or on Instagram @lplp.tpta.
Taylor Penzes is a participant in the 2019 Ocean Bridge program, an Ocean Wise initiative funded by the Government of Canada under the Canada Service Corps. The 2019 Ocean Bridge cohort did a 10-day immersive wilderness expedition along the North Shore of Lake Superior. The cohort will meet again to deliver ocean health and ocean literacy service projects during its immersive urban expedition in Ottawa in January, 2010. Follow Aquablog and Ocean Wise social media channels to stay connected with Ocean Bridge youth in your area and across Canada.
Ocean Bridge is funded by the Government of Canada under the Canada Service Corps.
Portail Océan est financé par le gouvernement du Canada dans le cadre de service jeunesse Canada.