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Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively Donate $500,000 in Support of Training, Education and Skills Development for Indigenous Youth and Young Adults

Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively Donate $500,000 in Support of Training, Education and Skills Development for Indigenous Youth and Young Adults

  • 5 min read

Education and training programs co-created with Indigenous communities build capacity locally — a sustainable solution to complex water challenges.

Toronto, ON, March 24th, 2022 Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively announce a donation to Canadian charity Water First Education & Training Inc. in support of locally-based, hands-on skills training and education programs. Reynolds’ & Lively’s $500,000 contribution will provide resources for more young Indigenous adults to become water treatment plant operators and environmental water science technicians, as well as engage Indigenous school-aged students in water science.

“Access to clean drinking water is a basic human right. Canada is home to over 20% of the planet’s freshwater — an abundance that’s envied around the world. There’s absolutely no reason Indigenous communities should not have access to safe, clean water. All the individuals involved, whether they are operating water systems or monitoring their local water bodies, are critical. We appreciate Water First’s focus on supporting young, Indigenous adults to become certified water operators and environmental technicians. These folks are helping to ensure sustainable access to safe, clean water locally, now and for the future. Blake and I are thrilled to support this important work,“ shares Reynolds.

Drinking Water interns from Georgian Bay collecting benthics in order to understand water quality. Although the interns are being trained to become water treatment plant operators, environmental water knowledge brings greater insight into source water impacts on drinking water.

One of the most fundamental challenges in Canada today is the lack of sustainable access to safe, clean water in many Indigenous communities. Successive federal governments have failed to address the issue, with the likelihood of having no access to safe, clean water still far more prevalent in the lives of Indigenous Peoples, compared to non-Indigenous populations in Canada. At least 15%, or approximately one in six First Nations communities in Canada, are still under a drinking water advisory. Everyone has a right to safe, clean water. The water crisis in Indigenous communities is unacceptable.

Every community’s experience and relationship with water is unique. Due to the complexity of water challenges faced by Indigenous communities, an integrated approach involving multiple solutions is critical for long-term sustainability. Nobody understands this more than the people who live there. 

Many Indigenous communities with water challenges have identified the need for more young, qualified and local personnel to support solving water challenges. In response, Water First collaborates with community leaders to design and customize local water-focused education and training programs to align with community goals and needs, which create opportunities to attract and train young adults in the water science field. These partnerships are built on trust, meaningful collaboration and reciprocal learning.

Water First has been in discussions with Ryan and Blake since January to share more about the organization’s approach to partnering and collaborating with Indigenous communities to help increase local water-science capacity. 

“From our first conversation with Ryan, his genuine interest in supporting education and training opportunities for young Indigenous adults and youth has been clear. Many Indigenous community partners are reaching out to Water First to explore options to strengthen local technical capacity in the water field. Ryan and Blake’s tremendous support will significantly increase Water First’s ability to offer hands-on skills training to more Indigenous youth and young adults from coast to coast to coast,” said John Millar, executive director and founder at Water First. We are proud to support the steps Indigenous communities are taking to address local water challenges independently and for the long term.”

Ryan Reynolds connected with Water First executive director and founder John Millar (left) after hearing earlier this year of the training programs offered in collaboration with Indigenous communities.

Spencer Welling, Water First intern from Wasauksing First Nation shares, “I am doing this for myself, my family and community. It’s important to know how things are done and gives you a better appreciation for it. It’s a good career to have, which I’m sure would ease my parents’ minds knowing that. It also feels good knowing that my community will have a local water treatment operator at the plant for at least a couple decades.”

Anyone interested in learning about Water First and its education and training programs can find out more at www.waterfirst.ngo.

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Water First Education & Training Inc. (Water First) is a registered Canadian charity that works alongside Indigenous communities to address water challenges through education, training and meaningful collaboration. Since 2009, Water First has collaborated with 56 Indigenous communities located in the lands now known as Canada while supporting Indigenous youth and young adults to pursue careers in water science. 


For more information, please contact:

Ami Gopal
Director of Development and Communications
Water First
1-905-805-0854
ami.gopal@waterfirst.ngo