Skeena Voices | ‘This is where my heart is’

Skeena Voices | ‘This is where my heart is’

Brin Friend has landed at the Terrace Women’s Resource Centre after years of biology fieldwork

Brin Friend has lived in southern Alberta, the Kootenays, southern B.C. and Tumbler Ridge, but nowhere has been quite like Terrace.

“I love this community, this has been one of the greatest life experiences I have ever had becoming integrated here and I would really like to call this area my home,” said Friend, a program coordinator at the Terrace Women’s Resource Centre.

Her journey to the area started at Wilfrid Laurier University where Friend achieved a biology and psychology double major. She received a plant physiology and ecological studies special designation, also specializing in social intervention, community development and behavioural sciences.

While in university Friend was the project lead on a marine rehabilitation and restoration project on an island in Cambodia for two years, educating the community about sustainability. The country was still recovering from multiple factors, one being the genocidal regime of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, dredged ocean floors and, on the island, water scarcity for up to half the year.

“We would do both on the ground research about the ecosystem and then work with the community to develop a plan that was sustainable for the environment in which they were living,” she said.

A large part of her work was rebuilding coral reefs around the island as the pilot program for a Great Barrier Reef recovery program.

The results were staggering.

Up until that point, coral was thought to grow at a rate of around three inches per year, but Friend observed growth of three inches per month, a fact that was once thought a scientific impossibility.

“Extreme pressure,” said Friend. “Life thrives under even extreme situations, life will always find a way, and that was really a groundbreaking project to really prove that life will find a way.”

Next, Friend worked as a field biologist and did private environmental consulting, studying the migration of the Jefferson salamander and living in several locations with her partner, who is also an environmental consultant specializing in bears. Friend has a diploma in canine psychology and several other certifications ranging from holistic wellness to gender equality.

She worked with WildsafeBC, focusing on reducing conflict with wildlife through non-aggressive body language and nonverbal communication.

“I love education so I probably have a list of over 30 different random certifications that I could get online or for part-time studies, interested in life.”

Friend’s dog Charlie is also an accomplished learner. The cocker spaniel-poodle mix has participated in wildlife rehabilitation, domestic canine rehabilitation, and helped Friend teach compassionate communication workshops. He also did tracking as a field dog and is one of Terrace’s two service dogs.

“He’s a 22-pound smart guy and really his resume developed because I could not stimulate him enough and so I was constantly having to learn how to learn with him and he taught me a whole lot about life in general,” said Friend.

Charlie often accompanies Friend to work, on hikes and mountain bike excursions.

Friend and her partner’s last stop before Terrace was Tumbler Ridge, B.C., where they lived in a Ford E450 van. “When we lived in Tumbler Ridge we found that housing was a struggle, especially with a dog even though he’s a certified service dog.”

In May 2019, the couple moved to the Bluegrass Meadows Micro Village north of Terrace with the Ford, after years of thinking about moving to northwest British Columbia.

“When we got between Prince Rupert and Stewart in this region we just had the most incredible wildlife interactions, there were just the most amazing rec sites, everyone was so wonderful and everyone we met constantly said they were from Terrace, and then when we decided to look for jobs in this area, Terrace was just everything that was aligned.”

As a program coordinator at the women’s resource centre, Friend is able to transition back to her community roots because she missed social engagement and providing community services in her time as a field biologist.

“Terrace is the first place we’ve ever worked that really felt like home and that we could see a way to set roots and the community has been the reason why we stay, we came for the wildlife and we are staying for the community,” she said.

“It’s a really vibrant community, it’s really engaged, I’ve never lived somewhere with so many non-profits per capita, there is so much desire for social innovation and change and in that people are so collaborative and open, its been the most incredible social journey we’ve ever had.”

The women’s resource centre is occupied over 250 days of the year by public groups like the North West Métis Association and Terrace Pride Pals. Friend organizes and helps deliver workshops and resources through the women’s centre on topics like health, finances and childcare. She coordinates volunteer tax clinics, a community garden among several other initiatives.

Friend is also a literacy outreach coordinator for the region, organizing family literacy day, book giveaways, plain language workshops with organizations – helping them understand how to write forms and documents that are easy to understand.

“Literacy is something for a lot of people that’s a barrier, just for the simple fact that you could go right out of high school or not even complete high school and get a good paying job so literacy was not always something that everyone needed, and so for certain age demographics you see a real gap there,” she said.

Friend said that awareness is building, and literacy rates have improved over the years due to changes in the education system. Still, she said it is important for people, businesses and organizations to understand behavioural markers. For example, if a person is constantly forgetting glasses they might actually need literacy support.

“I really love this centre, everyone here does incredible work there are incredible people here, we come in contact with incredible people and so really moving with that momentum. This is where my heart is and who knows how it will grow,” she said.

The Terrace Women’s Resource Centre, and the city itself have given Friend a chance to live her life to the fullest.

“Life is really beautiful if you have the opportunity to engage in it that way and just really try to constantly shift perspective that everything happens for a reason, and re-framing challenge as resiliency and growth and learning,” she said.

“I really have taken that to heart throughout my journey and now as well, and so what makes me tick is life, period. I love life and I love being enlivened and it’s a beautiful thing to be living it.”