by Ethan Paquet
Are you between the ages of 15 and 18 and looking to make new friends, become active in your community, learn about the environment, and gain valuable knowledge, skills, and experiences? If so, the Canadian Wildlife Federation (CWF) has a program for you!
WILD Outside is a year-round, no-cost program that helps youth connect with nature. It is funded in part by the government of Canada through the Canada Service Corps initiative and delivered by CWF through recreational and conservation projects that involve team-building exercises and mentorship with professionals working within the community. This experience can help with high school, university, or career planning – or it can be just for the fun of it!
Launched in 2018 in four cities, WILD Outside programs are now available in 30 Canadian cities, including Charlottetown and Summerside. More than 1,900 youth have taken part in the program, completing more than 550 community projects.
“This is a fun, flexible, and educational program where youth can do great things for their community and for wildlife,” says Samantha Mills, Marketing Manager, CWF.
The program is open to all youth regardless of skill level, experience, or ability. “For example, plenty of participants didn’t know how to canoe, ride a bike, or garden for wildlife before they started the program. We teach these skills and cover the cost of equipment, transportation, and training because we want young people to be able to enjoy the outdoors and nature.”
In the program, which aims to remove barriers to participation, youth gain a wide range of transferable skills and volunteer experience that can help them stand out during their job search and if they apply to post-secondary, she says.
“Projects include building pollinator gardens, cleaning beaches, building bat houses, and much more. The skills picked up through these projects look amazing on a resumé or a college application, especially for youth interested in a field such as community work, conservation, outdoor recreation, or education.”
Patrick Richard, Youth Leadership Specialist for Charlottetown, says an important part of what makes the program successful is community service.
“We have collaborated with teachers who have allowed us to go into their classrooms and offer an activity or presentation to show the students our programming. We also support community members who work in areas related to conservation and the outdoors.”
Those interested in registering for WILD Outside can fill out the application form online. Once registered, they will receive information about the latest projects happening in their community. “Most of the activities are in-person, but we also host educational webinars and at-home challenges.
“Each event is usually limited to about 20 youth to allow for personalized learning, and projects usually only last one day, so participants don’t have to attend every single event or feel bad if they miss one.”
Samantha says the program on PEI also works to provide youth with volunteer opportunities that can be put towards their high school graduation requirements.
“We encourage each participant to work towards 120 hours of community service, but a lot of them will fall in love with the program and go far beyond that goal.”
Adult volunteers needed
Adults ages 18 and over who would like to get outside and experience the activities alongside the youth are encouraged to volunteer with WILD Outside, where they can take part in activities such as canoeing, hiking, bird watching, gardening, building bat houses, and more.
Currently, four volunteers work between the two PEI locations, but as the program has grown, demand has increased, Patrick says. “We need about 10 to 15 volunteers. As a volunteer, you wouldn’t necessarily have to attend every single event, but we do always need at least one volunteer at each event.”
No specific skills or experience are required to join. Applicants must pass an interview process and vulnerable sector check. “This is a great opportunity to gain volunteer experience, especially for those looking to enter the conservation, education, or tourism fields. Our only requirement is that you bring a positive energy and can work alongside our Youth Leadership Specialists during our events.”
The application form for volunteers can be completed online. Those interested in volunteering can also contact Patrick directly.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
about WILD Outside and to register or volunteer, visit www.wildoutside.ca or contact PEI Youth Leadership Specialists Patrick Richard at email@example.com or Samuel Hunter at firstname.lastname@example.org
Did you know….The Canadian Wildlife Federation (CWF) is one of the oldest and largest non-profit charitable organizations in Canada, with more than 60 years of experience connecting Canadians to nature. CWF is devoted to conserving and inspiring the conservation of wildlife and the natural world to ensure its use and enjoyment for all. CWF informs and educates other Canadians on wildlife and natural habitats and promotes responsible human actions and conservation.