Introducing Project Snorkel

Name: Curtis Onaczyszyn (26), Taylor Penzes (22)

Country: Canada

Introducing Project Snorkel

Hi, I’m Taylor.

I am a recent graduate of Wilfrid Laurier University in the rewarding field of Social Work, something I saw myself working in as a career since I was a young girl- actually scratch that... I wanted to be a veterinarian, but hey, I got myself a dog so helping people instead naturally became a pretty good option.

Once I started my university career, I found myself wanting to create my own business, something that bridges the gap between Social Work and the environment, where people could use nature as their healer.

Over the four years I had at Laurier, I noticed that the parks became littered with waste, beaches were covered in plastic water bottles, and trails were peppered with cans. Everywhere that people were allowed to go to for free was not taken care of.

In a fourth-year course, my arts professor asked the class a question, “what will you bring to this world when you leave this program?” I was stumped because I wanted to bring together people with the environment, but our environment has been so damaged from people. I didn’t think our land has healed from our dangerous impacts.

I thought about shoreline cleanups, specifically Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup and the impact they’ve made on Canadians and their communities.

But what about under water?

Our shoreline collects everything that the floats on the water’s surface, but what about items that sink; that are too heavy to be carried away with floods? That’s where I came up with Project Snorkel.

I currently am the co-founder and co-leader of Project Snorkel, a grassroots operation with the intention of reinforcing the relationships of the local people with their waterways. The project emphasizes stewardship and outdoor recreation while ensuring an inclusive and welcoming atmosphere. With Project Snorkel, it aims to educate individuals on the impact of the pollution while fostering a relationship between individuals and the water.

In short, Project Snorkel will:

  • Engage and increase outdoor activity in local communities through community shoreline cleanups.

  • Identify aquatic species that may be invasive or new to the waterway

  • Educate the community on the harmful effects of waste in our waterways.

  • Deepen the communities’ sense of value towards the waterways.

  • Provide a place of safety to those who are interested in meeting others who are concerned about environmental awareness.

  • Provide an inclusive and welcoming environment for all people.

  • Provide valuable education about conservation and environmental stewardship through an engaging social media presence.

My partner Curtis, the other half and co-founder of Project Snorkel is a recent graduate of Mohawk College in the Environmental Technician program plays a very important role in the project. Curtis takes time to evaluate, research and implement native and invasive species into our Volunteer Orientations.

This is where Ocean Bridge, an initiative by Ocean Wise comes into play. Last year, my partner Curtis Onaczyszyn was accepted into the 2018 Ocean Bridge Cohort. Through this program, he met a wonderful and absolutely brilliant man named Chuk Odenigbo. Both have fostered a beautiful friendship and have spent almost every day chatting on the phone for hours although a thousand kilometers away from one another.

This year, I was accepted into the 2019 Ocean Bridge cohort, where I too, made lasting and beautiful friendships with my cohort mates. The Ocean Bridge program has brought together inspiring, bright, innovative people together and guided them to create friendships and connections that help one another through the course of their year.

Through this program, we were able to reach out to Chuk who has a non-for-profit called The Poison and The Apple which we were able to run Project Snorkel under. The Poison and The Apple which is “a federally incorporated bilingual non profit organisation based in Alberta. Collaboration and consultation are at the very centre of our modus operandi, with culture and sustainability as the driving ideals. We bring together organisations, create networks, set out projects and complete outreach. The goal is to take a multifaceted pluridisciplinary approach to create tangible change in our world by exploring creative strategies to encourage all Canadians to find their own connection with nature.” Chuk Odenigbo.

With the help of their Chuk, we started applying to grants! After two months of grant writing, our team was successful, we acquired grant funding that abled us to carry out the project as full time positions. Project Snorkel started cleaning up local waterways first in Curtis’s hometown of Woodstock, Ontario with an underwater cleanup. While being out in the murky Thames River for over four hours, we had found over 12 kilograms of garbage in the river. Most consisted coffee cups, beer cans and fishing equipment, but what surprised us the most was the amount of scrap metal that had been at the bottom of the river.

Proje(c)t Snorkel had it’s very first community cleanup that went off without a hitch, having over six volunteers from the surrounding area helping them to clean up the trail that followed the Thames River.

A month later our team has been hitting it’s groove, with multiple underwater cleanups and community cleanups under our belts, we look forward to continuing to bring awareness of species at risk and how to be more environmentally conscious. As for Project Snorkel, we have about three more community cleanups left of the summer in Sauble Beach, Wasaga Beach and Goderich before we wrap up the season.

We absolutely cannot wait to see what new initiatives we can bring to the table and how we can help our beautiful home, Canada.