Mountainaire Avian Rescue Society (MARS)

Indigenous Workforce is a First Nations-led organization that helps indigenous communities around British Columbia with economic development projects. All projects are designed to meet 4 basic criteria: (1) they are led and initiated by First Nations communities, (2) they involve elders and youth, (3) they are based on First Nations culture and tradition, and (4) they augment grass roots economic development within the community.

Indigenous Workforce projects take place throughout BC, though currently, most are done on the territories of the St'at'imc First Nation.

Voluntern participants who volunteer with Indigenous Workforce go off to live in a First Nations community, they integrate and work together with other volunteers on projects like building campgrounds, recreational trails, they join in community celebrations, and enjoy traditional food and culture.

Strathcona Region, Vancouver Island, BC

The St'at'imc people are a First Nations people and part of the larger 'Interior Salish' group. Sometimes called the Lillooet, the St'at'imc currently number about 7,000 and live on small villages on 'reserves' spread between the central interior of BC and the Whistler Region.

The St'at'imc culture shared aspects of Interior Salish and Coast Salish cultures, including totem poles, and potlatches. To learn more about the St'at'imc people, click here.

The St'at'imc homeland is a dry, but green region, crossed by many rivers, most importantly the Lillooet. Activities in this region include camping, hiking, caving, and in the right season, skiing. For more information on outdoor activities in this region, click here.

Besides the St'at'imc communities of Skookumchuk and Mt Currie, there are several prominent non-native communities in this region, including Pemberton, and Whistler.


What to Expect With MARS

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Voluntern participants can be asked to help out for up to 8 hours per day. This is done between 8.30am and the early evening - with specific hours determined by the project, sometimes even the temperature (if outdoors work - the hotter the day, the earlier work may start). Typically, you will receive a schedule at the start of the week. There may also be special events that you'll be invited to - and while attendance isn't mandatory, we'd very strongly suggest going - as these are a great opportunity for you to meet people and have fun.

Typical duties include:

  • Cleaning tasks: cage cleaning, laundry, dishes, sweeping and mopping floors, grounds-keeping.
  • Answering phones and pager,  admitting new patients and public relations.
  • Setting up animal enclosures, bird identification and utilizing learned knowledge of natural history of the individual species.
  • Food preparation of diets (includes preparing dead prey for raptors).
  • Animal care: hand-feeding infant birds, gavage feeding, handling and restraint and assisting with the capture and release of wildlife.
  • Medical care: administer daily medications, lab work, assisting staff with intake and physical examinations. Record keeping
  • Participate in extra curricular job-shadow with vet clinic or field studies
  • Participate in Fundraising and Public Educational programs
  • Completion of assigned project and essay due 1 month after end of rotation.

On-Site Accommodation

All Voluntern participants live on-site at a MARS cabin or camper on site. Cabins can be shared with other volunteers, while campers are private. All have electricity, running water as well as:

  • wifi 
  • small fridge 
  • small stove (though volunteers often cook on an open fire outside of the tent)

Once a week, your supervisor at MARS will arrange for a trip for you to visit a shop to buy food for the following week.

Laundry facilities are also available on site.

Getting There

Voluntern participants going to volunteer with MARS are encouraged to begin their stay in Canada at Vancouver, BC- and from there, travel on to the city of Courtenay, on Vancouver Island. The host will meet the student at the ferry port or airport. Voluntern participants are responsible for their own transportation - though Experience Education can provide booking advice and links.

The best way to get to Courtenay is by Greyhound Bus from Nanaimo, BC. This is a 3-part trip. The first part is to take regular urban transit within Metro Vancouver, to the ferry port at Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver - city buses cost $2.75. From there take a ferry to Nanaimo - a 1.5 hour trip which will cost about $20. In Nanaimo, take a Greyhound bus to Courtenay, BC - this trip takes about 1.5 hours and costs $25. The Greyhound should be booked in advance, and can be done online - please ensure that your bus departure times match ferry arrival times.

Once you've booked your Greyhound ticket, please send a copy to your EE coordinator so she can arrange your meetup with the host. She will email you with all the details of that meetup only after she's received a copy of your ticket.

Experience Education Services

We at Experience Education have matched you with this Voluntern Wilderness host, based on the preferences you indicated in your registration documents.

During your placement we would like you to complete a report each 2 weeks. This is optional - but it is an important tool to help us keep track of how you are doing. You can complete those reports by clicking here.

If there are any urgent issues during your transfer to the Voluntern host or during your stay, please call: 1.877.795.8403, and dial 717 for our emergency line.

We wish you the best of stays with 'MARS'.