Despite this, many people continue to be excluded from outdoor spaces and the outdoor industry. As stewards of outdoor programs, we are responsible for advocating, elevating, and creating pathways into the outdoors for underrepresented people so that they can experience the transformative potential the wilderness provides. A crucial part of this work for us is Outdoor G.I.R.L.S. (Girl Immigrant Refugee Leadership Series), a program designed to serve immigrant, refugee, and asylee girls in East Denver and Aurora.
Today, we are in the midst of one of the greatest migration crises the world has ever known. Immigrants and refugees often flee violence and untenable living circumstances to arrive at destinations that can be unwelcoming and unsafe both interpersonally and institutionally. This has hugely negative impacts on the physical and mental health of migrants and access to support services, especially for those who are undocumented, is confusing if it exists at all.
Physical activity is associated with a variety of positive health outcomes related to these risks and disparities, including decreases in depression and obesity and increases in pro-social connections and self-esteem. Significant research documents the physical, emotional, and mental benefits of connecting with the natural world. Given our strength and expertise as a facilitator of intentional outdoor experiences, we see a vital need to use our resources and connections to facilitate immersive time in nature that will be the site for skill-building, leadership development, self-actualization, and more for migrants and their family members.