Participant Interview: Hear it from our youth!
Tanya is 15 years old and lives in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. She is from Wet’suwet’en Nation and participated in EYA’s virtual Land Guardians Program this spring – part of an ongoing partnership with Urban Native Youth Association to provide alternative education and land-based learning to Indigenous youth disconnected from their homelands and culture.
How have school closures during COVID-19 impacted your life?
COVID-19 has impacted my life drastically. School was almost like my getaway so I was like dammit now I have to stay home all the time. There’s not a set schedule and I’m losing track of what I’m supposed to be doing.
Did EYA’s virtual program help you in everyday life during COVID-19? How?
The virtual program helped me stay focused and learning about things I’m passionate about like plants, wildlife, and culture. It was a chance to talk with other youth about things happening in the world like plastic pollution and the Black Lives Matter movement. It really gave me a chance to look at things in more depth and ask more questions. It brought more structure to my life so it doesn’t feel like complete chaos.
How did you find connecting with youth and EYA staff on Zoom?
The Zoom meetings were really powerful. I liked being able to meet people that I wouldn’t have known. I got to listen to other people’s thoughts and ideas and just learning together it felt like we were in the same room. I still miss the human contact though.
Did the weekly activities help you get outside more during school closures?
It gave me an excuse to go outside and identify plants and get some fresh air, not just study or watch TV. Just walking around and looking at nature relieved a lot of stress and helped me figure out my mind and gave me time to reflect. I’ll definitely do that more often. The fitness videos were really helpful, too. I got to focus on something other than COVID and not feel like I’m stuck at home like a pot plant.
I learned a lot through the program, like now when I see a plant I’ll see if I can find the seeds or try to figure out how seeds are dispersed. But I also learned a lot about myself and social issues. Now I’m a more curious thinker, and I want to help others be as curious as I am now. That’s how knowledge can spread, even in a neighborhood, that can still make a change.
Are you more aware of nature in the city or your neighbourhood than before the program?
Photography has always been one of my hobbies and since I learned all the plants around I can be like ‘oh that’s so and so’, and I would take photos to show the other youth. It inspired me to look more closely at the environment. Nature feels like a second home to me because it makes me feel so calm and stress-free. There are native plants in my neighbourhood I didn’t know were there before the program, like lupin, yarrow and lilies.
Anything else you’d like to share about the program?
The program helped me develop as a person and feel more connected to nature. It changed my mindset and I learned things that I probably wouldn’t have learned ever. Before I used to not wonder about things or talk to people much. It really changed me as a person. Because we earn money being in the program it encourages us to be responsible and keep coming. It’s a job basically.
Do you have a message for EYA supporters?
Y’all are dope! It’s because of you that we learned stuff that many of us don’t have access to and didn’t think we’d ever know. We grow and become different people. We become more mature and ask more questions. Anything that can change my opinion on topics around the world, I think that is a great opportunity. This program was amazing!