On November 14, 2017, 39 undergraduate students from the NHTV Breda University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands visited the City of Richmond and toured its leisure sites and services.

The day commenced with a welcome and introduction from the Director of Parks and Recreation at Richmond’s newest community centre in the heart of the city. Three presentations were given by managers in the Community Services Division on the unique features that make Richmond a World Leisure Community of Excellence; the events that took place in Celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday as well as the community grants program; and how the City of Richmond implements its sustainable sports and events program through the use of a toolkit.

Following these presentations, the students toured several facilities.  The first stop was the award-winning Terra Nova Rural Park, where students saw community gardens and learned about the Sharing Farm. They visited the Nature Preschool, an outdoor preschool for 3 to 5 year olds founded upon learning about nature, agriculture, and experiencing the outdoors. Students also saw the Terra Nova Adventure Playground, a nature playground with unique play elements.

The second stop was the Britannia Heritage Shipyard where students got to view how history, culture, and public art are intertwined to create unique spaces that are free and accessible to the public.

As explained by Marcel Grooten, lecturer at NHTV’s Academy for Leisure: “This combination of leisure facilities illustrates the role of what we call ‘Social Innovators’. In this program students not only learn how to interact with stakeholders, but also how to use methods and theories from the fields of, for instance, Experience Design, Community Design and Process Design”.

The day finished with a tour of the Richmond Olympic Oval and the Richmond Olympic Experience (ROX). Students learned how the venue was built to host the 2010 Olympic Long-Track Speed Skating events and then converted into a world class centre for sport, health, wellness, entertainment and culture.  A highlight was visiting the ROX, where students sped down the bobsled course, took a turn as a race car driver, and flew through the air ski-jumping, all interactive features found in the only Olympic Museum in North America. “The Dutch have a long tradition in speed skating. No doubt one of the most memorable sports experiences in Dutch history is the disqualification of our best athlete ever, Sven Kramer, on the 10,000 meters distance for missing the right lane. We took a group picture exactly at this notorious spot which plays an important part in our collective memory”, Grooten declared.

The students follow different (international) programs and share different cultural backgrounds. Elizabeth Ayers, manager at the Community Services, Planning & Projects Division, created, together with her colleagues from the City of Richmond, an inspiring and diverse program for all students; directly related to their curriculum and strongly appealing to the imagination of future leisure managers. The students evaluated the combined visit of the City of Richmond and the WLCE Vancouver Island University (VIU), organised by Joanne Schroeder, a very stimulating incentive in creating awareness for the international educational opportunities the NHTV offers.

From a Community Services perspective, as Ayers declared, “it was interesting to learn and gain a better understanding of what students are learning internationally in regards to leisure and how it improves the human condition. The opportunity to meet the instructors from Breda first hand and share learnings was interesting, and may lead to future collaborations on research and/or students coming to Richmond for work experience opportunities”.

The City of Richmond was designated as a WL Community of Excellence in 2017, in recognition of its substantive contributions to promoting leisure as a means to promote the social, cultural, economic, and sustainable environmental development of the community. Joanne Schroeder from WLCE VIU and member of WLO Board of Directors, visited Richmond on December 11 to present the official plaque recognizing the City of Richmond as a WL Community of Excellence. She made a short presentation to Council regarding the WLO and specifically what a Community of Excellence is.  She then presented the plaque to the Honorable Mayor Brodie.

Your community too can become a WL Community of Excellence and start benefitting from the networking opportunities. Check the open call here.