On the path to enlightenment
Eight young adults spreading a message of sustainability while on a quest for knowledge about water made a stop in Orillia during their Ontario bike tour last week. They were given a formal farewell Saturday at the Narrows. KRISTEN SMITH - THE PACKET & TIMES
The Otesha Project rolled through Orillia last week.
Eight young adults are bicycling from Kitchener to Ottawa over the course of two months, making stops in communities along the way. They are gathering information about access to clean water.
The Otesha Project was created by Jocelyn Land-Murphy and Jessica Lax while they were studying sustainable development in Kenya 10 years ago.
In Swahili, otesha means “reason to dream.”
Their message focuses on empowering young people and living sustainable lives.
While in the area, the project team visited the Orillia Youth Centre, Georgian College, Site 41 and Twin Lakes Secondary School.
Kevin Gangloff, director of the Orillia Youth Centre, was enthralled by the project.
Their presentation to the Green Team and seniors students at Twin Lakes had an immediate effect. It spawned the idea of a School Bike Day.
Gangloff said the project is also about “inspiration and education” as the group is gathering information about access to clean water.
They’re not experts, he said. Rather, they are a group of young people “wanting to learn and broaden their horizons.”
The group was on its way to Brechin for a three-day retreat that began Saturday morning.
Lindsey Tulloch, 27, from Niagara Falls, is on her second tour.
“You see so many amazing people… The communities are willing to come together,” she said, pointing to the generosity of people who open their homes to the Otesha group while they tour Ontario’s communities — people like John Waite of Orillia.
Tulloch said the group often struggles to define the specific message being spread through the tours, but they do focus on environmental sustainability, youth empowerment and “putting yourself out there.”
The group received a fond farewell Saturday morning and lesson from Mark Douglas, fish fence guardian and storyteller.
He told the eager group about one of the area’s National Historic Sites, the Mnjikaning Fish Weirs.
He spoke of the time of bartering and of First Nations natives who gathered at the weirs and how the harvester would always let some of the big catches go to reproduce.
“They knew next year was just as important as this year,” he said, adding the fish there fed thousands of people for 5,000 years.