#MemoirForACause has its roots in a North Vancouver High School By Robin Pascoe


When my daughter Lilly Briggs began high school at Carson Graham Secondary in 1996, our family had just moved to North Vancouver. We had been a diplomatic family living in Seoul, South Korea for several years after previous assignments in Bangkok (where I gave birth to Lilly) as well as Taiwan and China.

Even at the tender age of 13, Lilly already had five years as an environmental educator already under her belt. She’d only been eight years old when together, we created an environmental Brownie troop at the International School of Beijing. Later, she would convince the powers-that-be at Seoul Foreign School that the cafeteria should abandon wasteful paper cups for ones that could be used again.

It came as no surprise to anyone that not long after our move to North Van, Lilly would create Carson’s first environmental club with the help of her good friend Nina Clark, now Dobbin. The young girls offered everything from special Earth Days programs to workshops about recycling garbage.

Fast forward almost twenty-five years. After completing her PhD in environmental education at Cornell University, and now a fluent Spanish speaker after years of independent language study, Lilly helped adapt and translate the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Bird Sleuth program and personally rolled it out across several countries in Central America. It would be in Costa Rica though, in a small, rural town called San Vito not far from the border with Panama, that she would find her new home and as it happened, her life partner.


It had long been a dream of Lilly’s to have an environmental education project she could lead. Happily, as a family, we were able to help her make that happen. In 2019, we purchased an existing tourist property of 7.5 hectares called Finca Cántaros as well as an adjacent pastureland of almost the same size. That same year, Lilly invited young local children to plant—and to help grow—the trees that now make up The Children’s Forest of Coto Brus (link to the video at https://youtu.be/wv6lbSTMiuY?si=_Agu2l165DO3v98c).

During the pandemic, when she was grounded like everyone else, Lilly would go on to establish the Finca Cántaros Environmental Association (link to www.fincacantaros.org), a Canadian-Costa Rican community-based organization. Environmental education is at the core of everything we do, using forest restoration and birds as our two main educational pillars. In addition to a new not-for-profit being born during the pandemic, so too was our first grandchild, Lucy Rose.

Finca Cántaros has become our family’s environmental philanthropy project and all hands are on deck. Lilly’s younger brother Jay (another Carson grad of 2004) handles her finances; I’m her communications advisor, and her father serves as her leadership mentor. And as it happens, her long-time collaborator Nina Dobbin sits on her board of directors.

Fundraising is the life-blood of any NGO, so when I spent the pandemic writing a memoir “The Carry-On Imperative: A Memoir of Travel, Reinvention & Giving Back” it was a no-brainer for me to declare that 100% of its sales would go to fighting climate change by supporting the work of Finca Cántaros. It would be ChatGPT, however, that kindly gave me the hashtag #MemoirForACause.

To find out more about our family’s environmental project, watch this video (link to https://vimeo.com/800620992) of our origin story. Learn more about my new memoir and how to order it here. (link to www.robinpascoe.com)

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