June 2023 Newsletter - Summer Newsletter: School’s Out!


Summer is a season for relaxation, joy, and contemplation. It is a season for feeling our bodies in the warm sun and cool water and taking time to recharge and reconnect with our families, the natural world, and ourselves. It is a time for harvesting our gardens, both literally and figuratively.

A message from our Executive Director, Scott Bernstein

A picture of Scott Bernstein, Executive Director of Be The Change 

With the school year over, I’m reflecting on the great accomplishments at Be The Change Earth Alliance this past year. For me, July marks the start of my fifth month as Executive Director of Be The Change. It’s been an exciting and challenging adventure, and I feel privileged to lead such a great organization that has been developed over the last 18 years by those who came before me. 

The past months have been full of learning, imagining and connecting with teachers, partners and new friends. We’ve been building our team, launched an innovative new initiative called CARE, and been working to make the programs of Be The Change more accessible, relevant and impactful. In a time of global climate crises, we feel the urgency in our mission to inspire, educate, and empower youth to take personal and collective action for a just, sustainable, resilient, and personally-fulfilling world. Thanks to your support and the support of our funders, we’ve been able to reach a wider audience of teachers and students across British Columbia. 

I am delighted to share with you some of our accomplishments and plans for the future in this newsletter. I'll end off with the poem below and encourage you to reflect on what rest and relaxation look like for you in the months ahead.

An image of a beautiful islet in British Columbia

In the summer
I stretch out on the shore
And think of you
Had I told the sea
What I felt for you,
It would have left its shores,
Its shells,
Its fish,
And followed me.

-Nizar Qabban

A big welcome to our summer Program Assistants! 

Every summer, we welcome new staff to our team to help us update our resources, develop new workshops, find funding to carry out our work, build creative ways for us to reach our Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) goals, and research schools where we might offer professional development workshops in the fall. This year, we’ve brought on five amazing young people who bring an abundance of energy, talents and skills to our team. Today, we’re spotlighting two members of the summer team; look out for the other three in our August newsletter!

Amber Leung (she/her) is a second-generation Chinese settler, from the unceded territories of the Kwikwetlem, Tsleil-Waututh, Musqueam, and Squamish peoples in so-called Metro Vancouver. She just finished her final year of high school at Port Moody Secondary, and is planning to pursue sustainable engineering and policymaking in university. Her background is largely in climate justice organizing with Sustainabiliteens, which included climate strikes, divestment campaigns, and other youth-led mobilizations. She also enjoys planning service projects through British Columbia's Youth Parliament and her city’s youth committee. Amber is excited to help bring more just and equitable climate education to her peers.

Hannah Wicki (she/they) returns to Be The Change carrying the experience of a student, novice forager and community activist. Born a settler Canadian and currently residing on the stolen territories of the Musqueam, Tsleil-waututh, and Squamish peoples in so-called East Vancouver, Hannah acknowledges that the advocacy and work of local Indigenous communities has played a significant role in her involvement in climate action. As previous organizer with Climate Education Reform BC (CERBC), and Joyce Street Action Network (JSAN), Hannah has been engaged with community/climate action for nearly five years and hopes to continue to engage with community wherever their travels lead them. Now finished their first year of studies at Dalhousie University, Hannah looks forward to a season of growth and exploration around further educational transformation with the Be the Change team.


Climate Anxiety, Resilience & Empowerment (CARE)

Offering hope, action and tools to build resilience in the face of climate anxiety!

The recent wildfires across Canada are on all of our minds. We all felt heartbreak at the destruction of Lytton in 2021, where a wildfire destroyed 90% of the town and claimed the lives of two people. Sadly, wildfires and other climate-related changes are on the rise and it is apparent that these changes pose new challenges and risks for people across the country and world. In the face of uncertainty and a changing world, youth in Canada experience a range of climate emotions, from grief to anxiety to distress to hope. A 2023 study found that 78% of Canadian youth report that climate change affects their overall mental health.

With funding from the Canadian Red Cross and in partnership with the UBC Climate Hub, Be The Change developed the Climate Anxiety, Resilience & Empowerment (CARE) project. We are now engaging youth and the educators who support them in order to build resilience and wellbeing in communities affected by the 2017 wildfires in BC’s interior (school districts 73, 74, and 83). We aim to offer educators and youth the tools and resources to practice agency, regeneration, and resilience through storytelling workshops and professional development workshops. 

Here are a few of the ways that CARE is hitting the ground running this summer: 

  • We are hosting a three-day coaching retreat for climate educators, which will bring teachers into deep personal and professional learning around climate resilience, agency and empowerment. This retreat is offered at Epona Rise Retreat Centre in Heffley Creek, just 40 minutes outside of Kamloops. Applications are open until July 24th; apply while space is open!
  • We are offering a variety of youth workshops, in libraries and youth hubs, throughout the Thompson-Shuswap region! Building on the successful Youth Climate Ambassadors Project offered in partnership with the UBC Climate Hub, CARE youth workshops will use discussion and storytelling to equip youth with tools to move from a place of climate anxiety to one of resilience and empowerment.
  • We are delivering a special workshop to our friends at Qwelmínte Secwépemc, a collective of leadership from eight Secwépemc communities inTk’emlúps/Kamloops next week. 

We see the work of CARE expanding beyond the Interior of BC and hope to offer workshops to students and educators in other areas of BC soon. Keep an eye out for information about Pro-D and youth-centered workshops in your school or area in the near future. 

The local CARE team includes:

Dayna Margetts (she/her, CARE Project Manager) is a mother, settler, activist, and educator. She has spent the past 19 years teaching middle and high school science in Kelowna, BC. Through her Masters studies in the field of Environmental Practice, she has come to see how important education is in working for a just and sustainable future for all beings. She is eager to help educators and youth alike thrive in the face of much instability and uncertainty through dialogue and critical reflection. Dayna finds joy in watching her daughter chase the family dog around the yard, and relaxes by doing yoga or reading a good book.

Kristen (she/they, Education Project Assistant) lives and works on unceded Secwepemc Territory in so-called Chase, British Columbia. As a young person growing up in this area, she developed a connection with nature through riding horses and swimming in the river near her home. For most of her career she has worked in local food systems through her work as a farmer and consultant with a focus on regenerative agriculture. She finds joy in gardening, mountain biking, and fishing from her canoe. Recognizing that education is a key component for driving action, she is excited about the opportunity to engage with youth in a meaningful way and empower them to contribute to social and environmental justice.

Some programming & organizational highlights from the 2022-2023 school year

Justice, Equity, Diversion and Inclusion (JEDI) at Be The Change

Individuals and organizations across Canada are being called to examine our role in creating and perpetuating inequality and oppression, and take action to address and dismantle these systems within ourselves and organizations. At Be The Change, we recognize that this is an ongoing journey of learning, unlearning and holding ourselves accountable.

Some of the actions we have taken this past year include: 

  • We held decolonization meetings for our staff and volunteers where we explored what decolonization is, how it shows up in our organization, and what our individual and collective responsibilities are
  • We created new organizational policies to address these issues
  • We hosted a monthly JEDI wisdom circle made up of BIPOC youth to help inform our work
  • We re-evaluated our programs, including redesigning and relaunching Youth for Climate Action as Youth for Climate Justice in order to centre the concept of justice and equity in that work. 

Youth Climate Ambassador Program (YCAP)

Since 2019, Be The Change has partnered with the UBC Climate Hub to offer climate storytelling workshops to empower youth to take action on climate change. The Youth Climate Ambassadors Program (YCAP) is unique in that it partners university student volunteer facilitators with students in grades 8-12 (and can be adapted for younger students). The older students can meaningfully relate to and engage with their younger peers, and can empower them to become “climate ambassadors” in their communities. The workshops aim to give hope and agency to the students through compelling, powerful, and inspiring stories, and to offer tools to be more effective climate change activists and communicators.

In the past year, Be The Change and the Climate Hub delivered 38 YCAP workshops to 931 students in British Columbia!

Y4CJ: Youth for Climate Justice

Youth for Climate Justice (Y4CJ) is one of the most exciting and engaging ways we are empowering youth to take climate action. This year, Y4CJ empowered over 300 youth (ages 12-18) in 20 teams to design and launch climate justice projects in their communities. Be The Change provided hands-on mentorship, training workshops, and guidebooks to support youth on their journey of learning, collaboration and collective action. We worked with clubs and two amazing educators, Alain Roule and Brendan Chan, to bring Y4CJ’s principles and teachings directly into the classroom. Youth teams launched a range of projects, some examples include: designing and delivering climate justice professional development workshops for teachers in Vancouver, organizing a local clothing swap, and donating additional clothes to shelters, organizing habitat and shoreline cleanups, and writing letters to the municipal government to affect public policy and inspire change. 

We need your support!

The staff, board and volunteers of Be The Change are dedicated to our mission to inspire, educate and empower youth to take personal and collective action for a just, sustainable, resilient, and personally-fulfilling world. It is important to us to do this in a way that aligns with our values and is accessible throughout the province. Several years ago, we made the decision to offer our resources and programs to teachers and students at no cost. The funding for all of our programs - whether CARE workshops, Water is Life, YCAP, Y4CJ or the Student Leadership for Change - comes from our generous grantors and individuals like you.

Please consider becoming a one-time or monthly donor to Be The Change. Your support allows us to continue this important work and create lasting change in the lives of youth.

Thank you for reading our newsletter. It is a joy to recount the amazing success of the last year and share some of our ideas and plans for the future. Please feel free to reach out to me directly at [email protected] if you have any questions or thoughts about Be The Change or our work.

Yours in gratitude,

Scott Bernstein

Executive Director

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