Small actions for big change

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How can one person make a difference to the climate crisis? For Kaslo resident Kenya Blouin, the answer lies in bringing sustainability and climate solutions to local communities. 

Kenya decided early on that she was going to dedicate her career to environmental protection. With both her parents working in wildlife conservation, environmental protection was part of Kenya’s life from an early age. In high school, she was part of her school’s Green Team, helping create a waste management system and hosting student-led events such as climate strikes and tree planting. One summer, she joined Wildsight’s Columbia River Field School; she saw how past decisions impacted the Columbia Basin and how communities tied to the river rely on it for a healthy, functioning ecosystem. In Grade 12, she became the school’s Social Justice Coordinator, a role through which she encouraged students to live more sustainably.

As high school graduation loomed, Kenya heard about Wildsight’s Youth Climate Corps, a program that invites young adults to take meaningful steps to combat climate change while gaining practical skills, industry connections and experience in a range of fields, all while getting paid.

“What really attracted me to the Youth Climate Corps was that it offered me a way to take action on climate change,” says Kenya.

“The fact that I would be paid, that I would gain new skills, that I would meet people with similar interests and make really valuable connections, and that I would get the chance to participate in really cool projects, were all very enticing. This program really was the perfect fit for me.”

2021 Wildsight Youth Climate Corps crew at Bannock Point, an agroforestry project in the West Kootenay.

Youth Climate Corps paves the way

Through the four-month season, Kenya and her three fellow crew members took on agroforestry, public engagement, and wildfire mitigation projects while exploring many climate-related topics. 

She found the experience incredibly valuable, and it helped open her eyes to the many different career opportunities available in the environmental sector. 

“It was a wonderful way to gain new skills, and I learned how to look at the world, and the climate emergency, in new ways from the people behind and in the Youth Climate Corps program,” she says. “It was an amazing experience.”

A rewarding career

Following the Youth Climate Corps season, Kenya worked at a few different seasonal jobs and traveled before beginning her studies in Environment, Resources and Sustainability at the University of Waterloo in the fall of 2022. 

Last summer — and in no small part thanks to her time spent with Youth Climate Corps — Kenya became the Village of Kaslo’s first Youth FireSmart Coordinator. She merged her Youth Climate Corps experience with her studies at Waterloo into a job that connected youth to the climate crisis and the importance of programs such as FireSmart in protecting communities against wildfire.

The 2023 Wildsight Youth Climate Corps crew supported Kenya in FireSmarting the Kaslo Seniors Centre.

She brought wildfire professionals in to speak to students, encouraged students to create a film, and hired the Outdoor Adventures class to clear woody debris in a village lot. She even connected with Wildsight’s 2023 Youth Climate Corps West Kootenay crew to establish a non-flammable perimeter around the local seniors’ centre. 

For Kenya, Youth Climate Corps was one step in a journey dedicated to environmental protection; it allowed her to see how many small actions can bring about big changes for a sustainable future, and even led her to a rewarding summer job. She encourages anyone considering the program to apply.

“It offers you so many different experiences; you connect with so many people, and it is an excellent base for future job opportunities. Go for it!”

Join the movement

Applications are open now for the 2024 Wildsight Youth Climate Corps program. The season runs for approximately four months over the summer, with possible extensions, for 35–40 hours / week. We are looking for crew members in the East Kootenay (based in Kimberley), and the West Kootenay (based in Nelson). 

As part of the Youth Climate Corps season, Kenya and her crew mates received basic fire suppression and safety training (S100 course).