As a program facilitator who is part of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, inclusion for me is being in a space where I can be my authentic self, where I know in advance that I will be supported, nurtured, and I won’t have to play a version of myself that sacrifices my authenticity to minimize humiliation or prejudice. The outdoors can sometimes feel as though it is not the most welcoming place for us, such as identifying a public bathroom you feel safe using or finding outdoor clothing and gear you feel comfortable in.
Our goal with Power To Be is to create that space for our participants, where they feel safe, can be their authentic self, and they feel nurtured and appreciated, going beyond just being accepted and supported. One of the organizations Power To Be is fortunate to partner with on the lower mainland is the District of West Vancouver’s Youth Services Team (West Van Youth). West Van Youth offers a range of services and programs that help foster a community of youth who feel connected, aware, and informed. Power To Be provides an outdoor adventure component for youth while providing a safe space to develop technical skills, cultivate a sense of community, and build confidence in a nature-based environment.
West Van Youth offers the “Whatever” program which is a drop-in recreation-based program for 2SLGBTQIA+ youth and their allies in grades 8 to 12. With the help of two facilitators with lived experience as being 2SLGBTQIA+ and a Youth Outreach Worker, Whatever offers a supportive, caring environment in which to hang out and be heard. During the pandemic, Whatever youth identified needing opportunities to connect more with each other outside. West Van Youth staff and Power To Be collaborated to design and create a unique program that met the needs of the youth, while emphasizing themes of inclusion and empowerment so these youth would feel more comfortable accessing outdoor spaces. This summer, Whatever youth joined Power To Be staff on weekly nature-based adventures, where we explored various locations across the north shore while honing our outdoor skills. Topics included navigation and shelter building, reading tides and weather, learning Leave No Trace principals, practicing Mindfulness Moments in nature (Sit Spots), creating Nature Mandalas, and various other technical skills both on land and on water.
Over the course of our time together, as facilitators we were lucky to witness this group come together, support each other, create friendships and just be there for each other. Whatever creates a safe space for youth to be their authentic selves.
Photo 1: Lighthouse park! A participant doing a sit spot
Photo 2: Getting creative! A nature mandala
Photo 3: Double rainbow! The youth were so excited to see this during their 1st program