New to the HAT team: Meet Ashlea!
Greetings one and all, my name is Ashlea Veldhoen (sounds like "Veltoon") and I am very happy to say that I have recently come into the position of Community and Development Coordinator with HAT.
Who I am, and how I got here...
If people were to describe me, they'd probably say I was crazy about dogs, birds and the protecting the environment.
Originally from the suburbs of Burlington, Ontario, I had always longed for adventure, connecting with nature and having a better understanding of the world around me. Throughout my life I was continually inspired by my family to love and cherish the natural world and the plants and animals found within them. My mother, father and grandmother were the biggest influences in my life when it came to developing my passion for animals. Starting with pets, my passion expanded to encompass birds and wildlife, so much so that by the time I had reached high school, I was pretty certain I wanted to work to protect the animals I so loved. This led to my two diplomas in Ecosystem Management at Fleming College, my Bachelor's degree in Environmental Science at Trent University, and eventually to HAT! And as you can likely guess, I still hold a very special place in my heart for dogs.
This past fall, my partner and I decided to move to BC for a change of pace. We had both visited Victoria the year prior and had fallen in love with the atmosphere. I mean, how great is a city where you can see more than 7 stars at night and experience beautiful wild trails on a short distance outside of it? I love it here.
So, after I had finished my summer contract as the Beach Stewardship Co-ordinator with Wasaga Beach Provincial Park in Ontario, we packed up our car, roof pod, and mini-trailer with the contents of our tiny cottage, threw in some camping gear and helped the dog up onto the pile of blankets that would be his seat, and we were off and running. Through the rugged North of Ontario, we saw the fall colours begin to appear. We drove north of Lake Superior, which was absolutely stunning. The inland lakes and forests surrounding the area were crystal clear and lush. We then travelled through the prairies, where a small farm seemed like hundreds and hundreds of acres and witnessed thousands of Snow Geese congregating on the ephemeral lakes along the highway. Our little car trekked through the Rockies to Jasper and the Icefields Parkway, where we were able to see herds of Bighorn Sheep, elk (wapiti), and the clear blue-white ice of giant mountain glaciers for the first time. We travelled through the Okanagan Valley - which was another first for me - and then hopped onto the ferry at Tsawwassen. After 10 days of driving and a ferry ride, we had made it to Victoria. It wasn't long after we moved that that we began volunteering within the community and joined several organizations to meet new friends - through whom I learned of the Community and Development Coordinator position! Now that it's almost Spring and the plum and cherry blossoms are in bloom, it feels like the perfect time for new beginnings.
With that, I would like to extend my deepest gratitude to HAT for the opportunity to work in furthering the conservation of nature on Vancouver Island and the Southern Gulf Islands. It is an honour and a privilege to have this position and look forward to working together with the HAT and everyone interested in conserving the natural world for now and for generations to come.
Sincerely yours in conservation,
Community and Development Coordinator
Habitat Acquisition Trust