Scholarship Recipient Stories & Testimonials

From Erin Skye Robinsong

erin-skyeI have had the good fortune of studying at Hollyhock nearly every year for twenty years, since I was fourteen years old. Though I also studied formally in universities, I can directly trace the most important shifts in what I do and how I think to brief and potent weeks each summer there: discovering Natalie Goldberg’s work as a teenager made me want to be a writer, and studying with Jan Zwicky as an exhausted grad student was the medicine I needed to keep going; dancing with Margie Gillis, Zoe Ryan, Alalade Frederick, Zuleikha, Soasis Sukuweh and Bettina Roth connected me to a moving ecology of thought that is the foundation of everything I do; conferences like Social Venture Institute and Media That Matters introduced me to brilliant people in the realms of business, media and activism, who share and inspire ever more passionate and creative approaches to ecological and social justice; and the opportunity to study with philosopher David Abram and biologist Rupert Sheldrake helped put all the pieces together. These are just some of the programs I’ve been able to attend, to say nothing of the myriad ways I’ve been altered by the ocean, trees, flowers, wild winds and encounters of all kinds that weave a complex ecosystem that extends far beyond the time and place of these meetings.

But here’s the trick – the very things that I have cultivated at Hollyhock are the things that might make it the most difficult to attend Hollyhock, if it weren’t for the scholarship fund. As a poet and artist, I both credit and blame Hollyhock for its role in this beautiful and financially shaky life that I lead; I know I’m not unlike Hollyhock itself in this way. However, the complex and healthy ecosystem that exists between Hollyhock and the people who love it means that it continues.

People who are at the start of their careers, or in the arts or activism, or doing other beautiful, low-paid work, can bring their riches to Hollyhock, and be given others. Beyond (and also including) money, vital exchange happens when people of all income brackets and stripes meet on the shared ground of Hollyhock.

These days, in addition to writing poetry, I teach writing at Humber College and in public libraries throughout Toronto. Most of my students have grown up in inner cities and spent almost no time in nature; recently while reading a poem that referenced the Milky Way, I realized that many of my students had not only not seen the Milky Way before, they didn’t know what it was.

This, I realized, is one of the ways ecological devastation is made systemically possible: disconnection.

My work in the classroom is focused on environmental literacy, critical thinking and empowerment through knowledge and writing.

Some days it feels a long way from poetry, from the ocean and the Hollyhock garden, but it isn’t; it’s intrinsically connected through a lifeline firmly rooted in ground prepared by teachers, experiences and time spent floating in the ocean looking up at the stars over Hollyhock, which has been my deepest education and biggest love.

I’m grateful with my whole life,
Erin Skye Robinsong

More Impact Stories from Scholarship Recipients

Josh Tiessen, a 14 year old Stoney Creek First Nations youth and Hollyhock scholarship recipient attended Robert Bateman’s Painting program in 2010. In 2012, Josh competed to have his art shown at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa.

“The support to participate in SVI is sincerely appreciated. My experience was life changing on both a personal and professional level. Our project Reconciliation Canada is moving forward at full speed primarily due to the support and relationships we developed at SVI Hollyhock.” Karen Joseph, Social Venture Institute Participant

“My experience at Hollyhock was truly transformative. It provided me with the opportunity to really sink into myself and reflect on the vision I have for my life, both personally and professionally. The whole place has an incredible energy about it. I could sense immediately that 30 years of life-changing education had occurred, which allowed me to dive in quickly and dive deep. What I found so fantastic about my time at Hollyhock was that, not only did I walk away feeling more emotionally grounded in myself and my vision, but I had a toolkit full of resources that I have been able to apply to my professional and personal work and relationships.” Anna McClean, The Art of Leadership

“I would like to thank the scholarship committee at Hollyhock for their generosity. I will use many elements shared with us in my work dancing with students across Manitoba through our “Artist in the Schools” program. I feel very fortunate and I know the other students felt the same. Thank you for Hollyhock. It was a wonderful, inspiring, educational, and completely positive experience.” Judy Cook, Dancing From the Inside Out

“The lifelong learning and dynamic relationships that grow from the seeds planted at Hollyhock are invaluable. I am able to do the work that I do because of the community of change-makers that annually make the journey to Cortes to learn from each other. Each conference I have attended has created a dynamic peer learning environment, which continues throughout the year through on-going mentorship and support.” Sara Dent, Social Venture Institute

“I had the most inspirational time. Once again, Hollyhock has brought a presenter of such high caliber and intelligence to the beautiful, spacious environment of Cortes Island. What an honour to be able to learn in such a supportive pristine location. I have been writing ever since and have organized several writing groups to continue riding the inspirational wave with others. Thank you so much for the scholarship which made this a possibility for me at this time.” Diane Brussell, Write Your Life for the Page & Stage

“I am so grateful to have received a Hollyhock scholarship. Mindfulness meditation training could not have happened in a more idyllic environment. The learning continued outside of the “classroom” when exploring your beautiful grounds and being nurtured by such wonderful food. I am now feeling prepared and excited to share this wonderful form of therapy with inner city youth.” Kathryn Wynn, Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy Training

“I spent three days completely immersed in the Alchemy of Group Facilitation and I emerged reinvigorated, inspired and eager to put my learning to action. I have already begun to plan my next opportunity to bring a group of youth together to achieve a common goal. I will be using the valuable learning from the workshop in that planning and implementation. Thanks for making this immediate change possible – without the scholarship, it wasn’t clear that I’d be able to attend in the first place. Thank you!” Leanna Hill, Alchemy of Group Facilitation

Donations made to the Hollyhock Annual Fund provide scholarships to youth, elders, professionals, teachers, emerging leaders, students, healers, artists and others who need your help to afford the full cost of attendance. The ripple effect is infinite.