On July 9, EcoMaris’ first Ships2Shores expedition dedicated to teenagers aged 13 to 17 left the Port of Quebec for Rimouski. A joint initiative, this new project developed with Toronto-based Broad Reach Canada welcomes young adults on a regular basis. This time, organizers wanted to create a space for teens.
With Ships2Shores, EcoMaris focuses on diversity. The initiative welcomes BIPOC, youth identifying as 2SLGBTQ+ as well as teenagers living in precarious conditions. Language-wise, Ships2Shores invites English speakers to take part in an immersive expedition centered on navigation, teamwork and St. Lawrence ecosystems. All participants have one thing in common: the desire to create a volunteering project that will help their community.
EcoMaris Director Simon Paquin explains that “even before we named it, diversity and intersectionality were at the heart of our activities. These are values we share with Broad Reach, with whom a collaboration came naturally. We're always looking to improve programs in order to meet the needs of young people.”
To say this edition was a success would be an understatement, given the rave reviews that poured in once the ship reached its destination. Captain Charles-Olivier Bonnardeaux describes “an overflowing energy, a willingness to participate and a sense of wonder when reconnecting with nature. We occasionally had to prompt participants to go to sleep,” he adds jokingly, "but it's a small price to pay for the chance to accompany them in this journey."
Warmly thanked by a parent, counsellor Suzanne Bouillier confirms that participants “were up for anything. I was happy to witness their dedication. They quickly agreed to take part in all maneuvers and group activities. Moments of contemplation on the river enabled them to set goals for themselves, and to leave the adventure with a sense of success. Many expressed their gratitude, from food quality to activities. This helped build trust between participants, but also between youngsters and the crew. These teenagers come into a setting that is so different from daily life that they’re just able to let go. After a day, all I saw was camaraderie.”
As for parents, they found their teens transformed. One mother saw her son “full of stars”, with renewed “love and respect for nature”. Another says her daughter came back “emotional and proud to have completed this journey at just 13 years old”. She adds that her daughter has been able to open up “despite great anxiety in recent years. She's proud of herself - and that's the greatest gift any teenager can receive.”
Simon Paquin points out that Ships2Shores meets many of the UN’s goals for the Decade of Ocean Science: "it’s a project that works both on building community and reducing inequalities, in addition to our usual focus on education, health and social justice. Our expedition encourages young people to seek their purpose: what are my values - and what is my value? How can I help? Our ship provides the perspective needed in this quest. And given this year's success, we'd be crazy not to do it all over again”.
Credits for the photo at the top : Benjamin Rochette.