“This is going to be easy!” was my first thought when I read about the Great Waters Challenge. It’s just writing some blog posts about interesting water stories, I love reading & learning about water, I can do this in no time. Getting into the meat of the challenges, it ended up being so much more than “writing blog posts” – I had to wrestle with what was the best way to bring my water stories to others and figure out how to present them creatively.
What I hoped to get out of the challenge was a way to connect my passion for water with reconciliation and #Canada150. It’s important in all the work that we do, that we recognize where the land comes from, and what actions settlers need to take to ensure reconciliation happens. The first challenge was learning about the land I live on (so the traditional territory) and its connection to water (so which watershed I’m part of). The next challenge involved doing some exploration or research to find history and water stories in my community. I told the story of Garrison Creek, which was buried during the development of the City of Toronto.
The third challenge was to bring that water story to a group of people – I decided to do a “lost rivers walk” – imitating an awesome organization that runs walks about water history in Toronto (see: lostrivers.ca). Preparing for this challenge is when I realized that this is going to be more difficult than I anticipated. I needed to bring people together – so I needed to make an event that people wanted to come to – and I wanted to impart stories on them – so I needed to convey my message in an interesting way. It’s one thing to care about issues yourself, it’s another thing to get other people to care about them!
I sent an email out to nine friends inviting them on a walk of the lost Garrison Creek that I would be guiding on a weekend in March. I figured there would be lots of drop-outs: some not interested, some not available, and some who say yes then would think “naaaah” on the day of, preferring the comfort of their own bed on a chilly Sunday in March. So I estimated two people would show up.
To my complete shock & excitement, nine people showed up, and we had an amazing walk. I had taken myself on the walk the day before, to rehearse where to go and what to say, so I was prepared with the kinds of stories that I felt my friends would be interested in: there was a mix of engineering (I pointed out the above-ground vents for the sanitary sewer) and cultural (such as the community canoes that mark the Garrison Creek path, a project that informs us about the indigenous land we are on, and are also pollinator gardens).
It was a lot of hard work to prepare and host people on this walk (and for food & drink afterwards) – but I learned that if you focus on making an event special and interesting, people will come, learn your stories, and share them with others.
Get out there, and share your water stories!
I want to say thank you to Waterlution’s Youth Advisory Board for leading & judging the challenge. Plug: Waterlution is currently recruiting new Youth Advisory Board members, details here.
Sylvie Spraakman is the winner of the Great Waters Challenge Level 1 (Jan-Mar), and you can read her blog posts for the challenge here: https://sylvieswaterblog.wordpress.com/category/gwc/. She’s currently a master’s student at the University of Toronto studying civil engineering as it pertains to stormwater management.
Teaser to next week’s blog from Ludiwine Clouzot: How Do We Celebrate Water In Schools?