It’s that time of year again where in most parts of Canada the chilly weather has set in and I’m taking a warm moment indoors to reflect on what has happened this past year and look ahead to what’s in store for Waterlution in 2019.
So much of what we do at Waterlution—supporting the skill development of young people to lead, collaborate, participate in innovative teams, work creatively, and work at a community level—as all these pieces come into my mind, I’m grateful for the numerous people that make Waterlution work.
It has been a year since Dona Geagea took on the challenging yet exciting task of globally leading the growth of our Water Innovation Labs. Dona has been instrumental in developing global partnerships and harnessing our strengths to deliver strong programming in many communities around the world, with vastly diverse water challenges. This past May, Dona delivered our first WIL Australia 2018 in Melbourne and the Yarra Valley. September 2019 is when our 2nd WIL Australia will happen, building on the incredible partnerships that Dona created this year, as well as many new ones she is developing. And that was just her getting started!
For those that don’t know much about our Water Innovation Labs, our WILs are designed to give participants the skills and opportunities to push themselves beyond their current education or experience level to tackle the world’s most complex water challenges. We accomplish this by using four key areas of focus: Leadership and Skill Development; Creative Ideas and Co-Innovation Creation; Water Appreciation and Community Centred Learning; and Knowledge Sharing and Innovations Transfer. Water Innovation Labs run globally and thus, create a unique platform for the world’s most passionate young researchers, innovators, inventors, and entrepreneurs to join together with community practitioners, start-ups, global multi-nationals, local industry, policy makers, and cultural communicators, for the purposes of knowledge sharing, innovation transfer, and cross-global fertilization of ideas.
Looking ahead, Dona and my shared interest in the Middle East has led us to focus our energy in the region going forward, and we are happy to announce that WIL Lebanon will be delivered in June 2019! Dona was born in Lebanon and immigrated to Canada when she was 14. It has been incredible working with her on this experience, watching her blend her Lebanese roots and connections, and integrate so many cultural and water-related components into this new WIL Global location. It’s been a pleasure thus far, working with UNICEF, American University of Beirut, Swiss Development Cooperation & INJAZ, and will be even better as we approach the delivery date. I am very much looking forward to being part of this program. Dona, I give you my genuine respect and admiration for all you are building, and yes, you luring me with Lebanese food is the cherry on top!
As I type this, hopefully Dona is taking a moment to relax a bit in Mexico. Many have followed her journey on Instagram where she been developing WIL Mexico for Spring 2019 in Monterrey, Nuevo León, with new partners, Servicio de Agua y Drenaje Monterrey, FEMSA Foundation, Heineken, and Makesense. It’s very exciting to say that applications for WIL Mexico are now open and to close out the year with this announcement.
Another pillar of the global team is Dawn Fleming, designer of our first WIL Brasil in 2017—with her vision and leadership, we experimented with the first extended programming for WIL Brasil in 2018. I invite you to take a look at our WIL Brasil 2018 experience here and the final report for 2018 is almost ready to be shared too. We are proud to say that we had four successful two-day workshops between May-November that deepened both the learning, skill development, and the application of the WIL projects designed by the participants that emerged from WIL Brasil 2017. In 2019, we will again explore unchartered waters within WIL Global as we’ll be delivering WIL Brasil in the Northeastern region of Brasil.
Much more to come in early 2019. Along with WIL Mexico, Lebanon and Brasil, we’re excited to host WIL Canada again, taking place in Alberta, WIL Australia, and WIL Europe in the Spring with the dates being finalized. Congratulations to Dona & Dawn for everything they have accomplished!
Closer to home, we’ve had two wonderful youth-led programs being delivered with Olivia Allen working closely with our Youth Advisory Board (YAB) across Canada delivering the Great Waters Challenge (GWC) in BC, and the Great Canoe Journey (GCJ) across Canada. Olivia has done an incredible job working in many parts of the country, meeting with and learning from Indigenous canoe builders, developing numerous partnerships, hosting workshops across schools, community groups and developing and delivering an amazing Youth Advisory Board retreat (that has now set the standard on all one can pack into a training retreat weekend, and we will use her model going forward).
It has been an incredibly deep and multi-layered experience for all of us as we learn to build new relationships with First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities, trying to find many productive ways forward to inspire elementary and high school students to build their own awareness of Indigenous cultures, and working together on local and regional water issues
We are happy to announce that GAGL 2019 will have a significant focus on Lake Erie, with funding support from Ontario Trillium Foundation. Please check back in February as there will be many updates, including a new call for artists. We will be working with many partners and seeking a diverse group of artists to work with in 2019 and beyond. Led by Creative Director, Christopher McLeod, I am personally inspired by all of the things I’ve learned from him, and it has been a gift to work with someone who is a practicing artist that can also manage such a large project.
There’s so much more that Waterlution does, and I want to say thank you to members of our team—Suzanne Zandbergen, Alexandra Trasiewicz, and Laura Palumbo, managing our Communications Materials and upping our social media content over the last year. I’d also like to thank Ludiwine Clouzot for running the Aqua Hacking Retreat and working with school teams for the Great Waters Challenge. Our incredible Youth Advisory Board continues to work hard at engaging youth both with hands-on activities, and creating two wonderful books to help raise funds for continued water education workshops for youth across the country.
Everything we venture to do at Waterlution is to support youth and one of the best programs we have started, is the Youth Advisory Board. Seeing the team evolve over the ten months that they share with us is extremely rewarding and I look forward to continuing to see them thrive as individuals, passionate about solving complex water issues, and fostering relationships with their communities and the people that live in them.
Sometimes it is an exhausting job to travel the world, visit with many communities, building and maintaining partnerships, and delivering process related work aligned with complex water challenges, but after 15 years I am more motivated and inspired than ever and all the hard work is truly worth it. Our #WILCanada & #H20 Global Leaders training in September 2018 was the highlight of everything we accomplished this year. It is still amazing to me to think that Waterlution started as an experiment, and the fact that we are able to celebrate this milestone 15 years later is tremendous.
Please keep our new call for YAB members on your radar, and the many opportunities mentioned above. We have a full plate starting January 2nd, and we can’t wait for you to be a part of the exciting year ahead. To our funders, partners, supporters—your support in developing our programming to give youth the skillset and opportunities to thrive is crucial and we are extremely appreciative, and love working with you. Thank you!
As we close 2019, we are proud to say we have engaged over 4500 elementary and high school students in the past two years since we started the Youth Advisory Board.
Given the current state of water resources, we know that water issues aren’t going away anytime soon, and this only serves to motivate us even more to step up our game as jobs are going to demand the many appropriate skills to be resilient in dealing with the complex issues surrounding the future of water. We also believe in the importance of community, and this includes respecting Indigenous people and learning from them how to be more inclusive in our teaching and programming.
Happy Holidays & thank you again for your continued support and interest in pursuing common goals. We can’t wait to share more with you as the new year unfolds.
All of the very best,
Karen Kun, Founder and President, Waterlution