Hope grad’s love for the outdoors leads her to Conservation Corps

Verena Brysch builds insect hotels to be placed around Hope. Her conservation efforts are designed to help important polinators and is part of the final stage of her time with the Canadian Conservation Corps. (Photo/Verena Brysch)
Verena Brysch poses with her kayaking group as they ready for the next leg of their journey around Vancouver Island. This expedition is one of three stages Brysch went through with the Canadian Conservation Corps. (Photo/Verena Brysch)
Verena Brysch holds Kessy, an American kestrel, during her time volunteering with The Raptors. Brysch graduated from HSS last year and took a gap year to work with the Canadian Conservation Corps. (Photo/Verena Brysch)
HSS graduate Verena Brysch poses with Thea, a juvenile bald eagle. Brysch is on the final stage of her gap year with the Canadian Conservation Corp., a conservation program geared toward young adults provided by the Canadian Wildlife Federation and the Canadian Service Corps. (Photo/Verena Brysch)

Verena Brysch finds herself in an entirely different sector of real estate development.

The recent Hope Secondary School graduate is wrapping up a gap year with the Canadian Conservation Corps. While her adventures have taken her back home to Hope to build insect hotels for important pollinators, the experiences certainly didn’t start there – nor were they intended to at the beginning of her gap year.

The original plan for Brysch’s year off school was to travel to India to help at an orphanage her aunt runs. COVID halted these plans, prompting her to look more locally.

“I was like, oh, this sound interesting, I like being outside, and I applied and I got it,” she recalled.

Brysch’s interest in the outdoors has always been part of her life; her family emigrated to Canada from Germany in part because of the outdoor opportunities Canada had to offer.

“Growing up, I spent a lot of my time outside, going hiking or skiing or kayaking,” she said. “I think in that way I learned to appreciate the outdoors so much. Seeing as in many ways it’s declining and not doing so well, it makes me feel like I want to help because I know how valuable it can be.”

Last September, the program started with a month of training on Vancouver Island, where Brysch took a two-week kayaking journey with a group of seven other young adults throughout the north coast of the island and in the Broughton Archipelago through the Outward Bound Canada program. On this expedition, Brysch trained to get certified in wilderness first aid.

Brysch got her first experience eating fresh sea urchin, learned about tides and how to read charts as she made friends along the way.

All of the kayakers were placed in different spots on their own for 24 hours. Brysch recalled doing calisthenics just to stay warm; even though it seemed like the sun would give her some warmth, she had no such luck.

“When I was watching the sun, I was thinking there’s a lot of things in life that you only really value when you don’t have them,” Brysch said, reflecting on her time in solitude. “When you’re out there for several days and you can only bring what you really need, you realize how little you actually need to get by and how many things we have in our world that are just extra or to fill time.”

During another segment of her trip, she remembered when they were chased by a group of sea lions, seeing a few of them jump into the water as the kayaks drifted by.

“A bunch of sea lions, like 20 or 30 something, came up out of the water and started making these arfing sounds,” Brysch said. “They were really big. The guide was like ‘Okay, guys, we should clear the area.’ I didn’t think it was so scary (at the time) but then afterwards we all regrouped and everyone was like ‘that was so scary, I thought bad things were going to happen.’ After that, we always stayed very far away from all the sea lions.”

Folowing her training with Outward Bound Canada, Brysch volunteered full time for three months with The Raptors, a non-profit organization advocating for birds of prey based in Duncan. There, she got to take care of the birds by feeding them, flying them and cleaning the enclosures. Normally, there’s a sustainable food and pollinator garden on site that volunteers care for, but while Brysch was there, she helped take care of trees and cover plants in hay.

“It was really cool working there and the birds are really interesting. I definitely learned a lot,” Brysch said.

Brysch is wrapping up work on four large insect hotels to be placed throughout Hope. with the help of local high school students, there will be educational signage at the hotels explaining how they work. On April 10, Brysch will be giving away insect hotels and explaining how to install and maintain them at the Hope Community Garden between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.

“The insect hotels are mostly targeting mason bees or leaf-cutter bees, which are solitary bees that live in the area,” she said. “They’re really good pollinators. We can easily help them by providing them habitat in this way.”

After completing the program, Brysch plans to spend some time on the island, working for the summer before returning to school at the University of Guelph in September to study biochemistry.

“Growing up, I really wanted to be a veterinarian,” Brysch said. “I’m not sure if I still want to do that. The other thing I’m considering is working in wilderness medicine so then I can be outside and still be challenged, mentally. I really want a job outside; that’s what I learned doing this program. I definitely don’t want to work inside.”

For those interested in working with the Conservation Corps, Brysch stresses the need to be present and engaged.

“I think when you’re there, you really have to give it your all and not be distracted or thinking about something else that’s going on in your life,” she added. “Just be present in the program, because then I think you can get the most out of it.”


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

ConservationhopeOutdoors and Recreation

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alisa Gusakova was one of two Grade 12 Chilliwack students who received a $5,000 Horatio Alger Canadian Scholarship earlier this year. Now, a fundraiser has been created for the teen after her mother was killed. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Fundraiser launched for daughter of Chilliwack woman killed

Money raised will help Chilliwack teen attend UFV to earn business degree

Chilliwack Search and Rescue volunteers say that a call on April 17 on Vedder Mountain was affected by bikers who rode through the rescue site, throwing rocks onto members and the patient. (Chilliwack Search and Rescue image)
Chilliwack Search and Rescue team, and patient, sprayed with rocks and dirt during rescue

Volunteer crew speaks out after riders on Vedder Mountain show no courtesy at accident scene

Agassiz Fire Department has been called to an ATV rollover on Harrison East Forest Service Road on Sunday, April 18, 2021. (Google Maps)
Agassiz Fire called out to ATV rollover incident on Harrison FSR

Morning call follows exceptionally busy Saturday as temperatures soar in Fraser Valley

A Chilliwack Search and Rescue truck heads down Vedder Road towards Cultus Lake to assist a dirtbiker with a broken leg. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Emergency crews, SAR busy with three separate outdoor recreation incidents in Chilliwack area

Calls in 1 afternoon include ATV collision, parachuter who fell from tree, dirtbiker with broken leg

Chilliwack’s historic Royal Hotel is offering COVID-style wedding packages for two weeks in June. (Facebook/ Royal Hotel Chilliwack)
Chilliwack hotel offers pop-up, COVID-style weddings for 2 weeks this June

‘Weddings can still happen, albeit in a different fashion,’ says Laura Reid of Royal Hotel

Vancouver resident Beryl Pye was witness to a “concerning,” spontaneous dance party that spread throughout social groups at Kitsilano Beach on April 16. (Screen grab/Beryl Pye)
VIDEO: Dance party erupts at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach to the dismay of onlookers

‘It was a complete disregard for current COVID-19 public health orders,’ says Vancouver resident Beryl Pye

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Tuesday December 8, 2020 in Ottawa. The stage is set for arguably the most important federal budget in recent memory, as the Liberal government prepares to unveil its plan for Canada’s post-pandemic recovery even as a third wave of COVID-19 rages across the country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Election reticence expected to temper political battle over federal budget

Opposition parties have laid out their own demands in the weeks leading up to the budget

File photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
One man dead after shooting in Downtown Vancouver

This is Vancouver’s fifth homicide of the year

A syringe is loaded with COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to open up COVID vaccine registration to all B.C. residents 18+ in April

Registration does not equate to being able to book an appointment

(Black Press file photo).
UPDATED: Multiple stabbings at Vancouver Island bush party

Three youths hospitalized after an assault in Comox

Selina Robinson is shown in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday November 17, 2017. British Columbia’s finance minister says her professional training as a family therapist helped her develop the New Democrat government’s first budget during the COVID-19 pandemic, which she will table Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. finance minister to table historic pandemic-challenged deficit budget

Budget aims to take care of people during pandemic while preparing for post-COVID-19 recovery, Robinson said

Police tape is shown in Toronto Tuesday, May 2, 2017. Statistics Canada says the country's crime rate ticked up again in 2018, for a fourth year in a row, though it was still lower than it was a decade ago. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
CRIME STOPPERS: ‘Most wanted’ for the week of April 18

Crime Stoppers’ weekly list based on information provided by police investigators

Each spring, the Okanagan Fest-of-Ale is held in Penticton. This year, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival will not be held. However, beer is still available. How much do you know about this beverage? (pxfuel.com)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about beer?

Put your knowledge to the test with this short quiz

Lord Tweedsmuir’s Tremmel States-Jones jumps a player and the goal line to score a touchdown against the Kelowna Owls in 2019. The face of high school football, along with a majority of other high school sports, could significantly change if a new governance proposal is passed at the B.C. School Sports AGM May 1. (Malin Jordan)
Power struggle: New governance model proposed for B.C. high school sports

Most commissions are against the new model, but B.C. School Sports (BCSS) and its board is in favour

Most Read