By Alison Taylor
Sara Jennings has always been active in Whistler’s environmental community.
But it wasn’t until a six-month cross-Canada bike trip with the Otesha Project that she really came out of her shell and uncovered the skills that would allow her to truly make a difference.
“I believed in being a part of stuff but I never actually did anything, I never took action myself,” said Jennings of her attitude before the tour.
“Now I think I’ve taken it to the next level a lot more and I’ve stood up and taken charge a bit more.”
It was so rewarding she now wants others to experience the life-changing Otesha Project. Applications for the 2007 bike tours are now available for people ages 18 to 30 years old and Jennings is spreading the word.
Otesha, which means “reason to dream” in Swahili, is an organization dedicated to promoting environmental and social justice issues through education.
She sums up her own experience as “amazing.”
“It’s a lot more than just educating (people) about the environment and social justice,” said Jennings. “Within the group as well you learn a lot about yourself and a lot about what it takes to create a strong community.”
Jennings left Vancouver with roughly 15 fellow bikers in April 2005. Along their journey across the country, the group stopped at various high schools and other venues to promote their message in a skit and educate people about the personal choices they can make within their own lives to make a difference.
Seeing a spark of passion from the audiences was one of the most rewarding things about the trip, said Jennings.
By the time they reached Newfoundland in October Jennings had changed.
Upon her return to Whistler she immediately found a cause to channel her passion — the municipality’s proposed public/private partnership for the multi-million dollar upgrades to the wastewater treatment plant.
Jennings helped organize and rally support through the group Whistler Water Watch, now called Whistler Watch.
“There’s no way before the tour I would have been as active in the P3 stuff,” she said. “I probably would have been one of the players who just did a few things like got people’s signatures (to call for a referendum) but not one of the main organizers.”
It was the groundswell of public support, and the more than 1,800 signatures, that eventually swayed council. They voted against the P3 in June.
Jennings said she will help anyone in the corridor with fundraising activities to pay for the cost of the tour if they are selected.