HeartWood was founded by husband and wife team Maureen Langbo and Marc Langlois in 1989 to provide learning experiences for young people in an outdoor setting. In the early years the founders ran canoe trips, environmental education, and family camps, before branching out to include leadership camps and school programs. Working out of their home and with no outside financial help, the couple slowly but surely built the organization on a foundation of program quality. Armed only with their determination and their collective experience from therapeutic recreation settings HeartWood blossomed.
Marc sometimes relates, “Because we had nothing to work with, we used everything we could find. What we didn’t know how to do, we figured out, and when we were stumped, or we met someone with more know-how than we had, we asked for guidance and almost always got it.” The simplicity of their situation led to some fundamental practices: try new things, see what happens, learn what you can from that experience and then apply it intentionally to other circumstances, find people to mentor you along the way, build networks, build a community of support, keep pursuing your vision. These are all key strategies of a learning organization.
Today, the number of young people HeartWood has worked with totals over 25,000. The size of the core staff team has grown, as well as the number of part-time, seasonal, and volunteer staff. The organization has earned broad and deep respect in Nova Scotia, as well as recognition in Canada as one of the country’s leading youth development agencies. Youth and adults speak of the ‘HeartWood way’ when searching for language that describes youth programming that is inclusive, empowering, and sustaining.