• John Jantak

Volunteer looks forward to eventual reopening of the Ecomuseum

Ste. Anne’s provides financial support

PHOTO BY JOHN JANTAK

Ecomuseum Zoo volunteer Céline Germain is looking forward to resuming her volunteer activities as soon as the Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue Ecomuseum is given the green light from the province to reopen.

A love of children and their natural curiosity prompted retiree Céline Germain to volunteer her time at the Ecomuseum Zoo in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue for the past two years, sharing with them the beauty of wild animals in a natural setting.

After more than two months now, it all seems like a distant memory as the entrance to Ecomuseum remains closed to the public and volunteers because of the COVID-19 epidemic in Quebec.

Deeper appreciation of nature

“All their activities came to a complete stop,” Germain told The Journal. “I was scheduled for an event on a Friday night and everything was cancelled. I’m still waiting for the reopening and whatever safety measures are put into place.”

As she awaits word regarding its eventual reopening, Germain spoke about her experiences volunteering at the Ecomuseum which have given her a deeper appreciation and understanding regarding the importance of nature’s fragile ecosystem and the need to preserve remaining green spaces as much as possible.

“I used to visit the Ecomuseum with my kids when they were young and I really liked the place,” she said. “After I retired, I read an article about someone who was volunteering and I said to myself, ‘This is what I would like to do.’ I applied and fell in love with the place, the environment and the people I work with. I wanted to be around children too so I combined this interest as well.”

Respecting the environment

One of the pleasures Germain receives is seeing the excitement on children’s faces when they first encounter wild animals. “It’s a great place for children to get a feel of all the things that live around us in the forest. One of the messages we want to give them is that we need to respect the environment and the animals that live there,” she said.

“You can see the children’s eyes open wide when they see the foxes, the lynx, the porcupines and racoons. Many of the kids come from downtown Montreal and they may not be getting out much in nature. It’s a real eye-opener for them. Some of them are very eager. They listen and ask questions so I have a very nice interaction with them,” Germain added.

She’s looking forward to the eventual reopening of Ecomuseum and continuing her volunteer work in whatever capacity is allowed at that time. “It’s good to get out of the house commune with nature. The Ecomuseum is easily accessible by car and when you walk around, you actually feel like you’re in nature and not in a zoo,” Germain said.

‘Ecomuseum needs to survive’

The Ecomuseum is such an important part of Ste. Anne’s identity, city council adopted a resolution at the last council meeting to donate a second $5,000 to the facility to offset the financial difficulties the organization has been facing since its closure due to COVID-19.

“They’re such an important part of Ste. Anne’s and an excellent partner,” said Mayor Paola Hawa. “I can’t imagine ever losing the Ecomuseum. I don’t what we’d do especially for all the kids. Some of their first experiences in nature are at the Ecomuseum where they learn about animals and the environment. It’s a wonderful not-for-profit organization.”

“We have to do everything we can to try to save them. I’ve lobbied and worked with some of my counterparts at the agglomeration, provincial and federal levels to try get them some help.” Hawa added. “We’re going to move heaven, hell and earth to help them in any way we possibly can. The Ecomuseum absolutely needs to survive.”

Ecomuseum welcomes support

David Rodrigue, Executive Director of the Ecomuseum Zoo welcomed the contribution from the city and from individuals who have made donations.

“We feel appreciated and privileged because everyone is going through a hard time right now. We didn’t ask for it so the money came in very handy. When the city helps it means the zoo and the wellbeing of the animals are very important to them as well. It’s encouraging,” said Rodrigue.

“We feel the same way with the donations we’ve received from the public,” Rodrigue added. “Everyone is going through uncertainty right now especially with the economy. It shows that people think what we do for the environment and with the animals is important. Our mission is to help people with reconnect with wildlife and nature.”

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