A friend of mine recently said that we should measure the time spent working for non-profits in dog years; seven for every one. It certainly is an intense work environment but also intensely satisfying. There is something about taking on seemingly unwinnable fights, and winning that, provides real food for the soul. So it’s with considerable difficulty that I’ve made the decision to leave Dogwood Initiative.
When I started at Dogwood Initiative four years ago there were only four of us working in the office, two of us part time. It seemed like the struggle to make pay roll was as much of a challenge as that to stop coalbed methane development in the Sacred Headwaters (our biggest campaign at the time). My job description more or less amounted to doing whatever Will (our ED) didn’t have time to get to and I was as likely to be booking his travel as sending a press release or updating the website.
Boy have we grown. The little campaign we started on coalbed methane grew into a huge grassroots movement in Northern BC and together we were able to secure a four year moratorium on coalbed methane development in the Sacred Headwaters. There are now thirteen of us on staff in Victoria and Vancouver. Our supporter base had grown from about two thousand to closer to forty thousand and it’s not unusual to see Dogwood quoted in the Globe and Mail, CBC, or even Al Jazeera.
One thing that hasn’t changed though is our can-do attitude and willingness to take on difficult challenges. When we started working on our No Tankers campaign few thought that a small NGO could take on the Canadian oil industry, with its deep pockets and huge influence on government. But the movement to protect our coast has grown into a formidable force, with First Nations, fishery workers, politicians and citizens from all walks of life working together to prevent the inevitable disaster that would come with oil tanker traffic. And more than ever I’m confident we’ll win.
Dogwood’s can-do attitude is infectious and that, funnily enough, is a large part of why I’m leaving the organization. Working at Dogwood has taught me the necessity of taking on life’s big challenges and daring to strive for the future we dream of. With this in mind I’m leaving to pursue my career as an artist.
While I’ve been working here my art career has been slowly gaining momentum. My big break was three years ago when I was in an exhibition of Caribbean art at the Brooklyn Museum. Since then I’ve shown my work in Havana, Ecuador, Miami, Toronto and Paris. Currently I have some work hanging in Rideau Hall, the residence of our Governor General. In August I have a solo show here in Victoria and in September some of my work goes off to Washington DC.
But to really make my art sing I have to devote myself to it completely. It’s no small thing to leave the job I love – the one that also pays the bills for me and my family – for a greater love and uncertain future, but I’ve decided that it’s now or never.
I am truly grateful for the support Dogwood has shown me over the years and for the opportunity to work with all the great people that make up this organization. I’m also grateful for the opportunities I’ve had to meet wonderful people throughout BC who are committed to making a better future.
I’ll be leaving Dogwood on July 15, but may be pulled back for the occasional contract.
If you would like to check out my artwork you can visit www.CharlesCampbellArt.com. You can also drop me a line at Charles@CharlesCampbellArt.com if you want to stay in touch and get the occasional update from me.