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Lasting results begin with strong relationships

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Lasting results begin with strong relationships

2023 Annual Report

“For Water First, the most successful projects springboard into enhanced partnerships and deeper relationships. There’s no better feeling than getting invited back to collaborate on a new project.”

Cory Girard, Project Manager
Water First

With every collaboration Water First embarks on, we strive to first understand what the community wishes for the long term, and then offer support that leverages our technical expertise.

Our goal is to co-create sustainable positive outcomes that support each community’s priorities and goals, so the benefits of the work stay with the community for generations to come. Lasting results like this are built on strong relationships, meaningful collaboration, and trust.

This year, we launched a new partnership with the Ogemawahj Tribal Council (OTC), to train Indigenous young adults to become water treatment plant operators. The announcement was made in June 2023, but the initial conversations began many months prior. Investing time in conversations and listening to ensure we understood the goals of OTC and participating communities was a critical first step. From that foundation, and through ongoing work to nurture and support that relationship, the newest Internship Program was launched. This cohort of interns are on a journey to develop technical skills and certifications to be the next generation of water operators.

Strong relationships can also lead to ongoing collaborations, such as our Summer Credit Program. This multi-week, land-based, experiential learning program is full of fun, hands-on water science activities. While the main objective is for students to earn high school credits in subjects like geography or science, we deliver the program with partners in a way that embraces Indigenous culture: learning on the land, working with water and fish, and learning from Elders, Knowledge Keepers, local organizations, and community programs.

Sheshegwaning First Nation

Saugeen Ojibway Nation

Spotlight Story

Water First has been collaborating with Beausoleil First Nation since 2018. In summer 2023, Water First returned to southern Georgian Bay to deliver a third year of the Summer Credit Program, as well as a Drinking Water Internship in partnership with Ogemawahj Tribal Council, that welcomed two young adults from the community.

It is through sustained collaborations like these that we’ve developed – and continue to strengthen, relationships. Being invited to attend the school powwow in July was certainly a highlight of the season.

“We were touched and honoured to be invited to share in this amazing celebration of culture, and to get to see people that we’ve worked with and built relationships with,” said Dillon Koopmans, Water First’s Senior Manager, Education. “It really validated our relationship-first approach.”

Spotlight Story

Water First has been collaborating with Beausoleil First Nation since 2018. In summer 2023, Water First returned to southern Georgian Bay to deliver a third year of the Summer Credit Program, as well as a Drinking Water Internship in partnership with Ogemawahj Tribal Council, that welcomed two young adults from the community.

It is through sustained collaborations like these that we’ve developed – and continue to strengthen, relationships. Being invited to attend the school powwow in July was certainly a highlight of the season.

“We were touched and honoured to be invited to share in this amazing celebration of culture, and to get to see people that we’ve worked with and built relationships with,” said Dillon Koopmans, Water First’s Senior Manager, Education. “It really validated our relationship-first approach.”

When a community reaches out to us for support in implementing an environmental project or training strategy, it often marks the beginning of a long-term relationship. Just as with a shoal rehabilitation project, laying a solid foundation now can mean successful outcomes in years to come, as with Sheshatshiu Innu First Nation in Labrador. Collaboration with the Environmental Water team began in 2021, and has led not only to a long-term fish habitat monitoring program, but the partnership has facilitated enhanced monitoring plans and greater awareness of climate change-related challenges.

Water First is in a unique position to be able to work with individuals across different age groups – in-class workshops with school-aged children, young adults starting a journey to a career in water science, as well as Elders, parents, and partners who are working together towards community goals. Our focus on relationships and ongoing learning allows us to have a positive impact that can be felt for generations to come.

To read more stories like this, check out our

2023 Annual Report

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Water plant operator in the office