April 19th marks the start of National Volunteer Week – a time to applaud Canada’s volunteers. Amid our global fight against COVID-19, the vital importance volunteers play every day in our society is being deeply felt across the nation. Many volunteers are still working the front lines delivering essentials services to our community’s most vulnerable citizens, while others are finding creative ways to contribute remotely or virtually. We applaud all these individuals and celebrate their voluntary contributions.

Photo Credit: Michelle Huang

To prevent the spread of COVID-19 within our community, the Vancouver Aquarium is temporarily closed and all on-site volunteer activities are on hold until further notice. While our volunteers can’t do their regular roles caring for the animals, welcoming visitors, and educating school kids right now, it hasn’t dampened the volunteer spirit of our dedicated team. Some are continuing in virtual roles, others are offering their help to non-profits delivering essential services, and some are busy sewing masks for our animal care teams to wear. Many more are pursing virtual learning opportunities, in order to increase their knowledge and become stronger ambassadors for our oceans when volunteering resumes.

While the important work of volunteers is gaining more attention these days, we have always been in awe of the incredible contributions of our passionate volunteers who range in age from 10-90+. Last year alone, our 1451 volunteers contributed 99,000 hours of service to Ocean Wise. More importantly, they made an incredible impact on achieving our mission of increasing people’s understanding, wonder and appreciation for the oceans.

Photo Credit: Yasmin Schepens

Some of their 2019 highlights include: helping to rehabilitate 115 animals at the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre (MMR), educating 650,000 visitors on-site, inventorying 7,500 props, producing 121 animal information documents, completing 163 field research dives, conducting 10+ Dock Talks at local marinas and helping us raise over $450,000 at our first ever Ocean Wise gala. In addition to this, 60,000 Canadians removed litter from our shorelines in order to prevent animals from eating, or becoming entangled, in plastic pollution.

Normally we would be celebrating our volunteers’ collective accomplishments with daily pizza parties and special behind-the-scenes tours during National Volunteer Week, but this year we have moved our celebrations entirely online. Our volunteers will sign on to enjoy virtual lunch and learn sessions led by our research and vet teams and will have the chance to re-connect with their fellow volunteers online.

Photo Credit: Alex Barber

We all look forward to the day when physical distancing measures end and on-site volunteering can resume at the Vancouver Aquarium. In the meantime, we will send out heartfelt virtual applause to these passionate members of our family for their vital contributions to our oceans and our community. Thank you for all you do to engage, amaze and inspire others to care about our oceans – we couldn’t do it without you!

If you want to join the Ocean Wise volunteer team in the future, please visit www.vanaqua.org/volunteer and complete an online application form. You will be contacted by our team when volunteering resumes. If you are looking for ways to support Ocean Wise and the Vancouver Aquarium right now, please visit https://www.vanaqua.org/donate

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