Actors Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively © Reuters/Anthony Behar/Sipa USA
This past March, celebrity power couple Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively donated to Canadian charity Water First Education & Training Inc. to support locally based, hands-on skills training and education programs. The pair’s $500,000 contribution will provide resources for more young Indigenous adults to become water treatment plant operators and environmental water science technicians and engage Indigenous school-aged students in water science.
One of the most fundamental challenges in Canada today is the lack of sustainable access to safe, clean water in many Indigenous communities. Successive federal governments have failed to address the issue, with the likelihood of having no access to safe, clean water still far more prevalent in the lives of Indigenous Peoples compared to non-Indigenous populations in Canada. At least 15 percent, or approximately one in six First Nations communities in Canada, are still under a drinking water advisory. Everyone has a right to safe, clean water. The water crisis in Indigenous communities is unacceptable.
Every community’s experience and relationship with water is unique. Due to the complexity of water challenges Indigenous communities face, an integrated approach involving multiple solutions is critical for long-term sustainability. Nobody understands this more than the people who live there.
Many Indigenous communities with water challenges have identified the need for more young, qualified, and local personnel to support solving water challenges. In response, Water First collaborates with community leaders to design and customize local water-focused education and training programs to align with community goals and needs, which create opportunities to attract and train young adults in the water science field. These partnerships are built on trust, meaningful collaboration, and reciprocal learning.
Since January, Water First has been in discussions with Reynolds and Livley to share more about the organization’s approach to partnering and collaborating with Indigenous communities to help increase local water-science capacity.
“From our first conversation with Ryan, his genuine interest in supporting education and training opportunities for young Indigenous adults and youth has been clear. Many Indigenous community partners are reaching out to Water First to explore options to strengthen local technical capacity in the water field. Ryan and Blake’s tremendous support will significantly increase Water First’s ability to offer hands-on skills training to more Indigenous youth and young adults from coast to coast,” said executive director and founder John Millar. “We are proud to support the steps Indigenous communities are taking to address local water challenges independently and long-term.”
Spencer Welling, Water First intern from Wasauksing First Nation, shared, “I am doing this for myself, my family and community. It’s important to know how things are done and gives you a better appreciation for it. It’s a good career to have, which I’m sure would ease my parents’ minds knowing that. It also feels good knowing that my community will have a local water treatment operator at the plant for at least a couple decades.”
About Water First:
Water First Education & Training Inc. is one of the top charitable organizations in Canada addressing water challenges in Indigenous communities through education, training and meaningful collaboration.
Water First is guided by the Indigenous youth and young adults who participate in our programs, our Indigenous staff and board members, local Indigenous community partners, and by members of our Indigenous Advisory Council. Our collaborations are built on respect and meaningful partnerships, with Indigenous youth and community partners at the heart of our work. While we strive to meaningfully engage with many Indigenous individuals through our work, we do not identify as an Indigenous-led organization.