Zao wouldn't be able to deliver such outstanding outdoor adventure experiences and instruction without outstanding staff and volunteers. Our non-profit society is lead by a volunteer board of directors. The program director reports to the board and supervises all administrative and field operations, and leads the team of professional and apprentice guides to achieve Zao's vision. All of our staff guides are certified with the Association of Canadian Mountain guides, and are required to have significant ministry experience. All staff undergo background screening including regular criminal records checks.
We're a small team of people doing big things in the backcountry on Vancouver Island. If you are considering joining us, please get in touch! We are currently looking for a 2017 summer guide intern. Check out our Join the Team page.
To see who else Zao is affiliated with, please see our affiliations page.
Nolan Sawatzky - Staff Guide
Nolan completed the Canadian Outdoor Leadership Training Program (COLT) at Strathcona Park Lodge last year. He has a deep love for outdoor recreation and holds certifications as an Assistant Overnight Sea Kayak Guide, as a canoe instructor, and in wilderness first aid (90 hour). He joined us in 2016 as our summer guide intern and quickly became a valuable member of the team—his significant outdoor leadership skills are matched only by his care and empathy for people. He volunteers in youth ministry and has felt called to outdoor ministry as a context for serving people by leading people to experience God's presence: "It's inspiring to be surrounded by his creation, and I can't wait to share these moments with others!"
Nolan and his wife, Julie, live in Manitoba where he is studying Environmental Science at the University of Manitoba.
Courtney Olfert - Staff Guide
Courtney comes to Zao from her home base in the BC interior, where she is currently studying human kinetics. Originally a flatlander from Manitoba, she moved to BC where her love of the outdoors began to grow. In 2014 she graduated from Columbia Bible College with a BA in Outdoor Leadership. Courtney is an enthusiastic encourager when it is most needed— during the height of challenging conditions she thrives, and leads people with courage and maybe even a song. She enjoys climbing, hiking, snowboarding, and occasional cold-weather waterski sessions.
Courtney is passionate about bringing others into the outdoors, providing new opportunities for spiritual growth and lasting memories. She is certified in advanced wilderness first aid, rope rescue, and she is a certified Single Pitch Climbing Instructor with the AMGA, and an Apprentice Hiking Guide with the ACMG. Courtney leads with kindness, has a keen eye for the simple beauty in wilderness, and brings contagious laughter.
Society Board of Directors
Our volunteer board of directors meet monthly, and our ministry is directly accountable to our denomination, the Canadian Baptists of Western Canada.
Zao is currently looking for more people to join the board team. If you are passionate about outdoor ministry, or are a member of a CBWC church, please get in touch with the board.
Feel free to contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Aaron Baxter, (Board Chair) Construction Superintendent, Victoria
- Tim Neal, (Treasurer) BC Coastal Fire Centre, Crofton
- Jason Horn, (Secretary) Pastor at Warmland Church, Crofton
- Savanna Cormier, Nanaimo
- Bob Webber - Director of Ministry at CBWC, Calgary
- Bill Cotrill - Pastor at First Baptist, Port Alberni
Alexis Nemeth - Staff Guide
Alexis joined us in the spring of 2014 as our summer intern. She worked with our ministry through the Spring and Summer, helping deliver and guide multiple trips. She has a BA in Outdoor Leadership from Columbia Bible College, and is certified with the ACMG as an Apprentice Hiking Guide. Alexis is originally from Lethbridge, however something about the awe of the ocean and the mountains has given her a permanent love for BC. Alexis has been involved in summer camp ministry for many years. Some of her favorite outdoor activities include skiing, rock climbing, white water kayaking, and hiking. Alexis is based in Campbell River and works at Mt. Washington Alpine Resort as a professional ski patroller. She holds advanced wilderness first aid and OFA3.
Alexis believes in the need for outdoor ministry and desires to share her love of creation with others and walk beside people as they experience the excitement of a new adventure in the wild. She has a passion for learning the stories of those around her and getting to know people. Alexis is a joy to be around, thanks to her capable leadership skills, attentive eye, and infectious optimism.
Adam Strong - Staff Guide
"Originally an Alberta boy, I grew up hiking and camping with my family once or twice in the summers where my love for the mountains began. Years later at a summer camp I discovered my passion for the outdoors and was led to take Outdoor Leadership at Columbia Bible College. Throughout those four years I found my love in white water kayaking and mountaineering, and I'm currently working to take white water kayaking to a level where I can teach.
I love having the opportunity to share what I am passionate about with others and I relish the opportunity to do so. I am a fan of the simpler sides of life - surfing in the rain, having sand in everything I own, and swimming through some higher class rapids."
Trevor Provost - Staff Guide, Rock Program Director
Trevor joined us as a volunteer in 2013 as Zao was beginning its development on Vancouver Island, and he leads our Rock Climbing Program He lives in Campbell River with his wife and son, and is originally from North Vancouver. Trevor's first backpacking trip was with an outdoor ministry, Beyond Malibu, back when he was in grade 11. This proved to be a formative experience-- He was transformed by the gospel, and completely hooked on mountain adventures! In his 20s Trevor completed a semester-long, professional guiding program with Slipstream, and worked as a guide on Vancouver Island. He is now serving as a volunteer professional with Search and Rescue, where he is a Mountain Rescue Team Leader and Rope Rescue Team Leader. He is certified as a Top Rope Climbing Instructor with the ACMG.
After many years of backpacking, climbing and skiing, Trevor feels most called to a role serving and teaching young people, and a future generation of outdoor leaders . He has a heart for young adults. Trevor is our technical and gear guru with particular skills in mountain travel and risk management, as well as woodwork and carpentry, which is his primary vocation. He can eat bagels and sausage for days upon days, as long as his personal mustard supply holds.
Matthew Streeton, Guide
Matthew grew up in the Comox Valley and brings with him a lot of local place-based knowledge of our area. He joined us this year as an intern, and will serve as an apprentice guide during our summer programs. Matthew formerly worked at Camp Homewood on Quadra Island as a horse wrangler, and has ministry experience with Youth For Christ. This past winter he worked as a ski instructor at Mount Washington.
Matthew is certified as a Field Leader with the Outdoor Council of Canada, a level 1 ski instructor, and he holds Wilderness First Aid certification. He brings a wealth of camp and youth leadership experience to the table. He has a passion for wilderness guiding and for engaging young people to know their identity from God. " I applied to work with Zao because God has given me a love for the outdoors and working with young people, and that is exactly what this ministry is about."