A natural path to resilience, outdoors

Social Sciences

- Anne MacLaurin

Brittney Sharma’s vision—an outdoor program to help children who had experienced family trauma—generated lots of buzz this year after being chosen as a showcase idea for the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGIU) conference. Sharma graduates this month with a bachelor’s in anthropology, and says her time at UVic was filled with academics and club activities, as well as developing her vision to help children of battered women.

“Studies have shown that children of battered women living in shelters or transition houses were more likely to develop depression, anxiety, low self-esteem and aggression,” says Sharma. “Also these children were more likely to stay in a cycle of violence.”

In March, Sharma applied to CGIU and her project, “Koro: Outdoor Resilient Adventure Program for Children of Battered Women,” was selected as a showcase idea for the conference. With costs covered by CGIU and the The National Society of High School Scholars, Sharma was flown to Miami for the event.

“It was an amazing experience,” says Sharma “and the on-site mentorship I received really helped focus my project.”

The word “Koro” comes from an island in her mother’s native land of Fiji. Koro, in Fijian, means ‘village’ or ‘community’—a fitting title for the program Sharma envisions. 

“Koro is growing and developing from not only just being an outdoor resilience program but also to a physical space where kids can drop in and talk to a counsellor, peer, and use other resources that might not be available back at the shelter or transition house.”

Sharma’s mother came from the Fijian island Koro, in the early 1970’s, and her father arrived in Canada in the 1980’s. Sharma grew up in Vancouver’s East End, where she saw a variety of social issues in her community and heard about social problems from her mother who worked with the Ministry of Social Development. From a young age Sharma was aware of poverty, addictions and domestic violence—but her interests in making a difference led Sharma away from traditional fields of assistance and intervention like social work. Instead, she followed her love of learning about other cultures, and focused on understanding and putting judgments aside.

“Ever since I was five years old and my class learned about Egypt, I have loved other cultures,” Sharma explains. Sharma began studying anthropology at Langara College, where she received an associate’s degree before progressing to UVic. She cites UVic’s size and academic excellence as contributing to her choice. “The more I got involved with clubs and the more I engaged with my professors, the better my grades got,” she adds.

Sharma soon learned that living in Victoria and attending UVic fed her natural desire to help others and form a community. “Victoria is very different from Vancouver,” she says. “There’s a real sense of community here.”

Now back in Vancouver, Sharma is committed to her Koro project and starting her new job at a group home for at-risk youth.

“Outdoor adventure programs for at-risk youth have shown to increase resilience, develop trust, improve self-esteem and create conversation and dialogue with youth about the issues they struggle with daily,” says Sharma. “I am very excited for the way things are developing so far and I’m sure that by this time next year, the organization will be progressing well!”


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Keywords: student life, community, children, youth, convocation, anthropology

People: Brittney Sharma

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