This time next month I will be out in the Upper Dungeness River Valley in the incredible Olympic Mountain Range, with a small group of 12-14 year old girls and a team of fellow guides. But not only will we be backpacking for two weeks--carrying all our food and gear out into the wilderness of the mountains--we will also be venturing inwards, discovering our inner resources and truths.
This will be my fourth trip and fourth summer leading youth trips with Rite of Passage Journeys, after a life-changing experience as a participant in the nonprofits' Adult Wilderness Quest. My experience of deep solitude and deep community over the course of those ten days reoriented my world. I left with "new eyes" for the world around me, new vision for my life, and a burning desire to share this transformative work.
My experience with Journeys has only gotten increasingly magical from there; each trip I lead is seemingly more powerful than the last. The magic is multifold, layered and textured in the youths' encounter with the wild world around them, the interpersonal dynamics that arise within the group, and the way all of that external stimulus seems to fuel each individual's self-reflection. Within the framework of hiking, cooking, setting up camp, nightly council, solo time, and ceremony, each trip becomes a beautiful and unique tapestry of revelation and creation. I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to witness and co-create it with each group I journey with.
On the co-ed trip I led last year with 14-16 year olds, the dynamics of the group opened up an opportunity for discussions around privilege, power, and ally-ship. We had already set the stage for heart-sharing in our nightly councils. After all else we had been through together (carrying each other’s gear, helping with a hurt ankle, cooking for one another in the dark), when these other issues arose and the youth were asked to work it out, they were willing and able to engage in difficult and painful conversations with grace, respect, and forgiveness. The last of those conversations was unlike anything I had ever witnessed before--the depth of listening and care was something I rarely see among adults, let alone youth. It was humbling and awe-inspiring.
With this group I realized just how thirsty (and ready!) youth are for this opportunity--the opportunity to be seen and challenged, to find what is true for themselves as individuals and part of a community, and then to begin living into that truer way of being. There are several youth from my past trips who I maintain continuous contact with. In those ongoing relationships I can see that their experience on their trip has stayed with them and continues to serve them deeply and shape their lives. In fact, one of them is joining me again on the trail next month, ready to discover more!
I hope you can feel my passion for this work in my words. I truly believe that youth who are given these pointed opportunities for exploration of self, community, nature, and the mysterious, will be more equipped to navigate the challenges of adolescence, and then adulthood, especially in these changing times. And to that point, I am asking for your support in helping to share this opportunity with youth whose families do not have the means to send them on a trip. The cost of this program is $1925 per participant, and my goal is to raise at least that amount in the next month. This will allow us to offer two half-scholarships to two interested families and fill up the last two spaces in our van out to the mountains!
Any amount you are able to give will be so welcome and appreciated. Thank you in advance for your offering, and also just for reading this letter about what moves my soul.
With wild thanks and love,
Youth Mentor, ROPJ
More info from Rite of Passage Journeys:
Your support has helped Rite of Passage Journeys mentor youth through the transitions from childhood to adolescence and adulthood since 1968! Delivering transformative wilderness expeditions, retreats and trainings, Journeys is valued nationwide for solid integrity and commitment to soul-work that honors deep human values and the earth.
“My experiences on the Coming of Age Journey have had a more significant impact on my life than anything else I can think of. Those experiences continue to act as a touchstone for me now, 15 years later, and began a deep connection to community and the natural world, as well as fostering self-reflection and awareness of who I am and who I want to be in the world.” - Darcy, looking back to her trip at age 13
On Journeys trips, youth and mentors explore deep into the Olympic Rainforest and along the Washington coast. Over the course of days or weeks, participants are challenged to new physical, mental and emotional limits. Through talking circles, one-on-one mentoring, overcoming the complications of daily life in the wilderness, and new friendships, youth return home deeply transformed.
"After her Journey our daughter knew she could survive anything. What a positive journey into adulthood! She learned to speak her mind with clarity, grace, and integrity. This has been the most significant growth experience my daughter has had (twice)!" - Parent
Your help today will allow youth to participate who would not otherwise be able to! Our goal is to provide one full scholarship per youth program. Any additional funds raised will support enriched mentor training and vital facility upgrades.
We believe Coming of Age experiences should be a right for all people.
Your help will ensure that we can invite more and more youth to cross through important life passageways in the supported atmosphere of transformative Rites of Passage programs.