GivingTuesday 2015 contest winner Amanda Evans

For the third year in a row, we held a photo contest to celebrate GivingTuesday in Canada on Tuesday, December 1, 2015. We asked people send in their UNselfies – pictures that showed how they give back to their community. The response was terrific – visit our Facebook page to see the entries. Two people won a prize of $500 each to donate to a charity of their choice. One of our winners was Amanda Evans, who entered this photo:

She wrote: I am fairly sure that removing English Ivy and other invasive plants is my favourite pastime! Great that! I get to do it all the time with the Greater Victoria Green Team (a regional wide environmental group working to resptore our environment through hands-on eco-restoration and environment education activities. Happy GivingTuesday everyone!

We wanted to know more about Amanda, and asked her a few questions about her work with the Greater Victoria Green Team:

How did you get involved with the Greater Victoria Green Team in Victoria?

My first time volunteering was at for the restoration of a beautiful butterfly habitat in my hometown of Toronto and that was all that it took to spark my passion for the local environment and biodiversity.  I didn’t know anyone so it also showed me the power of working together with others and community empowerment. My mom dropped me off, and for three hours I worked along side others who shared my passion. We removed invasive plants. I was hooked! 15 years later I am now coordinating the Greater Victoria Green Team (GVGT), a regional-wide environmental volunteer program (part of the Green Teams of Canada charity) that works to empower the community to get out, get their hands dirty and restore our environment! Volunteer programs like the GVGT help make it possible for people to be able to volunteer their time and make a difference to their local community and environment.

Here I am with a group of students from Selkirk Montessori. We planted Garry oak ecosystem plant species and removed Ivy at Esquimalt Gorge Park in September!

What inspires you to volunteer?

Volunteering to me doesn’t feel like I am donating my time, it’s this innate feeling of wanting to be part of something I believe in and to share space with others who are working towards the same goals. There are amazing local organizations doing so much work to improve our environment and it’s hard not to want to volunteer to help them out in any way possible! Other volunteers who have done so many wonderful things for our city inspire me. There are many parks and green spaces that have been completely restored because of the tireless work of volunteers. This shows me that change is possible and I want to be part of it! I also love re-visiting areas of parks that we have worked in to see the long-term difference made to the ecosystem.

We love volunteering at the Haliburton Biodiversity Project. Here we are this past October planting native wetland species!

What’s your favourite part of volunteering? What do you get out of it?

I feel satisfied after participating in GVGT volunteer activities. The fresh air, friendly people, and the amount of work we accomplish in a mere few hours leaves me with this feeling of contentment and happiness. I have seen how volunteering has changed peoples lives and helped set them on a positive path. I love discovering new parts of our beautiful region, and meeting so many hard-working and passionate volunteers who have dedicated so much of their lives to improving our communities. It’s a great way to meet new people too!

I am full of ideas about how to create a vibrant city, and volunteering with different groups gives me a feeling of possibility, that we can be part of making the change needed for the betterment of society and the planet.

Volunteers play a significant role in the building of our city, environment and society and it is so important to support volunteers, and volunteer programs, such as through the initiatives of the Victoria Foundation!

We have lots of youth focused activities. Here is a group from Shoreline Middle School helping plant native plants in the garden at Portage Park just a few weeks ago.

You’ve indicated that you want to direct your prize to Green Teams of Canada. What is it about this work that inspires you?

Green Teams of Canada, a Canadian charity was started by a very passionate volunteer who wanted to make a difference in her community (in the lower mainland). This program has now become the largest conservation volunteer program in British Columbia! And one woman with a dream started it all!

I believe that in order to make positive change to our earth and environment, we need to start at the community and grassroots level. Think global, act local pretty much sums it up! We need to come together as a community to improve the health of our local environment, protect habitat for species-at-risk, stop the deforestation of our endangered old-growth forests and protect our marine environment.

The Lower Mainland Green Team and the Greater Victoria Green Team are creating opportunities for our local community to come together and restore our environment through hands-on educational activities. We are a collaborative group and help connect volunteers to many existing projects throughout the CRD so money donated to Green Teams of Canada helps out many different restoration and stewardship projects throughout the region.

For more information about how to get involved with the Greater Victoria Green Team, check out our site here: