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Life lessons from Quinn the owl

by Amy Bunton
November 28, 2016

Community investment

Have you ever tried getting a group of grade nine students to pay attention to a presentation during the last week of classes before summer holidays? Or asking the group to dissect owl pellets with their bare hands? If you think this sounds like an impossible feat, then you have not had the North Island Wildlife Recovery Association (NIWRA) in your classroom yet.

NIRWA, located in Errington, looks after ill, injured and orphaned wild life and works to rehabilitate and release as many as possible back into their habitat. Some animals, who are not able to return to their natural homes, stay at the centre where they are cared for and are able to be a part of educating the public about how to help animals just like them.

As part of this education, NIWRA facilitates in-class presentations; showing videos, explaining how the animals come to the center and even introducing the students to an owl. With an overwhelming response for requests from schools across Vancouver Island, the volunteer-run program did 67 presentations last school year, in classes from kindergarten to grade 12. For the 2015-2016 school year, FortisBC invested towards NIWRA's in-school programs.

 "Without corporate donations like the one from FortisBC, we wouldn’t be able to do these programs in the schools." said Sally, a volunteer with NIRWA for more than 10 years, who also puts on the presentations to students.

Ms. Obsersteiner's grade nine class, at John Barsby Community School in Nanaimo, was one of the lucky groups who had NIWRA present to their classroom last school year. April Obersteiner, used to take her students on field trips to the center, but due to funding shortages, they are no longer able to.

Ms. Obersteiner mentioned that the students learn much more than just the owl's habitat, physical features, and eating habits, but they also learn about volunteerism, community involvement, respect for the environment, and that we are all connected.

"The next best thing is getting the program brought to the school," said Ms. Obersteiner. "It is great to see the kids engaging in the presentation and getting excited by what Sally and Ross are explaining. I even have students from previous years that want to come back just for the presentations."

One of our employees, Carmen, was able to relive her glory days and observe the exciting educational and environmental experience by sitting in the back of the class.

“It was great to be able to participate in one of the presentations first hand. At FortisBC, we seek to support organizations that encourage education as well as building stronger communities. Sally and Ross at NIWRA definitely meet that objective, by reaching so many students across Vancouver Island.” said Carmen, Community Relations Manager with FortisBC.

Just in time for back to school, FortisBC is excited to be investing in the program once again. This contribution will go towards the new school year to allow even more kids in our service territory to take part in a program that really encompasses the importance of environment and what our province has to offer.

If your school is interested in having Sally, Ross and Quinn the owl present to your students, contact them here at 250-248-8534 or

Learn more about how FortisBC gives back to the communities in which we live and work.