Chelsea Griffie wrote -
Wilderness has been so pivotal in my life. It has taught me about places outside of myself, that I can survive in these places, but I had much to learn, and taught me a ton about working with others. It showed me what I want to spend the rest of my life doing, until everyone has access to the outdoor world. I am very excited to launch Los Angeles Wilderness Training (LAWT), a start-up non-profit and Earth Island Institute sponsored organization. LAWTprovides clear pathways that will get more youth into nature. As a woman of color, I am even more charmed to bring LAWT to light. There needs to be more diversity outdoors, especially as this nation becomes more “of color” than ever before. If you can remember how transformational the great outdoors is for you, help us to get urban young people there, as well.
This is the power of Los Angeles Wilderness Training (LAWT). We gather those teachers, youth counselors, after-school and summer program staff and other adults in the community who work in youth education, health and development who are interested in harnessing the power of nature to young people's growth. We train, equip and empower this cohort to plan and lead safe and compelling explorations in nature for youth. They plan and execute the trips, using outdoor and backpacking gear from our gear library, in ways that are culturally relevant and developmentally appropriate for the youth they work with.
We need $8000 to get the LAWT ball rolling. LAWT will use the funds for projects such as building up the LAWT Gear Library infrastructure($1000 for shelves and bins), paying a grant writer (at about $500 per grant, $2000 would get applications in for 4 grants), making a video(for the LAWT website and the LAWT Facebook and YouTube pages - $1000 would be cheap), funding trainings (we lose money on every training, as they are subsidized; each training costs about $500, and we want to do 3 a year, adding up to $1500), hosting a friendraiser event($500 - the first event wouldn’t bring in any money; it would just spread the word about LAWT), and salaries ($2,000 - no one has gotten paid yet).
If we got $4000, we would do half as much. We would lose the video, write half as many grants, do less trainings, spend half as much on the Gear Library set up, throw a bare-bones friendraiser event and pay half as much in salaries.
Gear is prohibitively expensive for most groups. Yet, it can make a trip successful, safe, and fun, or quite the opposite. The Gear Library provides successful graduates with FREE loans of backpacks, sleeping bags, tents, camping stoves, boots, etc. for their trips with kids. For instance, a pair of rain pants costs around $100, a good pair of hiking boots is around $150, and a six-person tent runs about $350. We hope to raise enough to buy gear that we can’t get donated.
I realized the power of this model while serving as the Program Director for Bay Area Wilderness Training (BAWT) for five years. I remember hearing a lot of great stories at BAWT about the positive impact time in nature has on youth. One adult leader we trained from an organization that works to educate and empower Southeast Asian girls in Oakland who are being or at high risk for being sexually exploited told us that on a day hike, one of the girls who was having problems with school told her, "Maybe I will finish high school." The first Wilderness Leadership Training course I led had participants who were former gang members working at HOMEY (Homies Organizing the Mission to Empower Youth), who work in San Francisco's Mission district to inspire paths to education, self-sufficiency, non-violence and well-being. They organize multiple trips with their youth that incorporate cultural identity and are multilingual. One staff member said their trips would not be possible without BAWT.
Outdoor spaces near Los Angeles… Skeptics cry, "But there are none!" That's where they are mistaken, my friend. I was just on a 15-milehike in the Angeles National Forest yesterday. It asked about you. It asked why you never call or write, when it's only 10 minutes from Pasadena. There are dozens areas within 50 miles of downtown LA that are also full of options from day hikes to multiple-day backpacking.
Thanks so much for joining in the grand vision with LAWT, increating a sustainable long-term community-oriented solution for providing children in urban areas with opportunities to experience the world, themselves and their peers in new and exciting ways by taking advantage of the natural beauty available in the Los Angeles region. Many children in urban areas, such as Los Angeles, are lacking in opportunities to experience the outdoors in self-actualizing ways. We believe that children, once exposed to the great outdoors, have a greater sense of themselves and of the world including a greater sense of trust in themselves, their peers, and those in positions of authority. LA Wilderness Training will serve these youth directly by providing essential outdoor training and guidance to the youth workers and community leaders who are already present in these young peoples’ lives, allowing them to create awesome learning experiences for these children.
THANKS FOR READING and THANKS FOR SHARING and THANKS FOR DONATING!
ABOUT LAWT: For more information on LAWT, go to www.lawildernesstraining.org. LAWT is a project of Earth Island Institute.
ABOUT CHELSEA: She was avidly into the outdoors, but did not have doors open to get her there. Her family was into the camping where you stay in a cabin, but Chelsea knew there was more. In her twenties, in California, Chelsea finally went camping alone. She did not bring a sleeping pad, since she thought they were just for wimps. She bought one the next day. The experience taught her that there is a lot to learn about outdoor living, but it’s not rocket science. There is even more to learn to lead a group of young people outdoors.
Many years, and many camping and backpacking trips later, Chelsea finds herself older and wiser. She ended up doing a lot of rock climbing, and took her place as the first Afro-American to climb El Capitan in Yosemite. She is on the Expedition Denali, a group of Afro-American mountaineers set to climb the tallest peak in North America in 2013, through NOLS.