Kaitlyn McLay is a participant in Group 11 of the Canadian Conservation Corps.

I am so grateful to have the opportunity to participate in the Canadian Conservation Corps.

So far, this has been one of the most amazing experiences of my life! This program helps create amazing leaders in conservation. My group (Ocean’s 11) is filled with wonderful people (facilitators and participants)! We immediately bonded the first day we met and became lifelong friends. It amazes me how hilarious, empathetic, and positive everyone is. I have so much love for all of Ocean’s 11.

We spent our first week of stage 1 at Camp Rotary in New Brunswick getting to know each other, learning first aid (which was, by far, the most fun I’ve ever had learning first aid), and preparing for our 12-day sea kayaking adventure with Outward Bound (with Chloe and Ryan!). After kayaking, we stayed at Kozy Hollow Cabin in New Brunswick for a week.

During our sea kayaking adventure, we endured some challenging weather. The average temperature on our trip was probably about three or four °C (with one glorious afternoon reaching 10 °C). It rained for eight days straight. Some of our tents broke from strong winds during ‘Hurricane Hog’ (which was named as a result of us experiencing extremely strong winds on Hog Island), when we finally saw the sun – it snowed, and we all had colds.

That being said, it was one of the best experiences of my life. We all remained positive and had a blast the entire time. Everyone had a great sense of humour about the weather, and the Bay of Fundy is awe-inspiring. Also, this trip has increased my love for the earth (which was already VERY strong) despite the challenges we experienced. I believe this shows how much getting out into nature really does change one’s perspective, and opens one up to caring, connecting, and taking action on behalf of the earth. It helped me realize that inspiring conservation is as simple as getting people outside. The earth is something that you can’t, not love when you spend time with it.

On a personal level, it was challenging for me to be placed in a situation that forced me to deal with various forms of anxiety. Being in nature and with such supportive and positive people has helped me to heal beyond what I imagined possible.