Exploring the outdoors, on your own terms
When you are in nature, you see the world – and your place in it – in different ways. But there are barriers to nature, and they are both varied and very personal. Power To Be works hard to remove such barriers, because they believe that time spent outdoors is paramount to health, happiness, and unlocking opportunities for personal growth.
“Spending time in nature has an enormous impact on your well-being. It’s universal.
CEO, Power To Be
Everyone belongs in nature. Period. But the fact of the matter is there are barriers to nature. Power To Be however, believes that access to nature is a fundamental right, and is working hard to remove cognitive, physical, social and financial barriers to nature for youth, families and adults. An award-winning non-profit organisation based in British Columbia, Canada, they operate on the principles that physical activity in the outdoors is vital to health and happiness, can broaden personal horizons and create opportunities for transformative experiences. With Power To Be, people gain literacy in nature and are inspired to live meaningfully.
Though there are other programs worldwide that remove barriers for outdoor recreation, the Power To Be approach has a “human factor” that differentiates it: participants dictate their programming. They are the experts in their own experience, so why shouldn’t they choose their own adventure in nature? As Cora-Rose McClung-Sitnam, Power To Be Donor Development Lead for Major Gifts, says, "It's really important that the individual feels empowered. Feels that they have every choice and have everything to access nature in the way that they want."
To do this, the mission of Power To Be is carried out by a caring, committed and skilled team, who are dedicated to understanding the multitude of barriers to nature. Adjusting, adapting and expanding their knowledge, the aim is for people to leave feeling confident. According to Power To Be Program Facilitator Paul Blood, “We want to be a gateway. To open participants’ eyes to their potential and get them through barriers.”
Exploring gateways through nature.
Community Engagement Specialist Jasmine Parr is familiar with the gateways Paul describes. A C5 quadriplegic, she was referred to the organisation in 2005, and became an early participant in their adaptive kayak program. During her first meeting, she and the team spoke about what she loved doing in nature. Having grown up portaging the lakes of Ontario, Canada, she determined that she needed to get back on the water. Jasmine and Power To Be figured out how to do this together:
“It was scary at first, not knowing if I'd be able to get into that kayak. Not knowing if I would have the ability to even sit in a kayak. Never mind getting out on the water. But they really met me where I was at.
That first time that I was able to just sit – not even paddling – but to just sit in a kayak, and just breathe and centre my thoughts, it brought me back to who I am. It brought me back to that place of safety. That place of honesty. I knew that things were going to be okay.”
Eventually, Jasmine became a Power To Be volunteer, then a member of the team. Today, she is working with BC Parks and Parks Canada to find ways to remove barriers in nature on the provincial and national levels. “I knew there would be an avenue forward if I just stayed . . . in nature."
Extending her journey so others can enjoy nature without barriers is certainly something that newer Power To Be participants appreciate.
Like the Hall family. Parents Jennifer and Tyler have watched as their two sons thrive in nature at Power To Be. Both have ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder), and the stimuli that the world bombards us with, affect them differently and in ways that can make daily life challenging. With Power To Be however, nature is a place where the entire family can step out of their comfort zones calmly and safely. The older boy, already a nature enthusiast, especially loves kayaking and running his fingers through the water. The younger, according to Jennifer, “just levels out,” and the intense reactions he might typically have about unfamiliar situations do not happen at Power To Be.
For Tyler, Power To Be means no limits: “It gives the boys experiences that I can’t”. With no limits could come worry of course, but Tyler and Jen trust the organisation so deeply, that they know they can leave the boys to explore, and everything will be fine.
Achieving more together.
Sometimes finding that perfect alignment of values just happens naturally.
Such is the ongoing collaboration of Power To Be and Fjällräven. After providing support and volunteers to events for some time, Vice-President of Brand Experience for Fjällräven North America, Jean-Marie Shields encouraged the organisation to apply to the Arctic Fox Initiative. In 2020, Power To Be received a €35.000 grant, which has contributed to equipment for adaptive recreation programs in hiking, kayaking, canoeing, camping and outdoor skills. So far, the Arctic Fox Initiative has helped to fund over 1.000 hours spent in nature, 150 days on the trail (18 in the rain) and over 7.500 metres climbed!
In turn, Fjällräven is learning about how to help remove barriers to nature. As Power To Be CEO Tim Cormode says:
“Both brands speak to the value of being in the outdoors and there is a shared belief in the social responsibility we have when it comes to nature and the community. We both operate by encouraging people to get into nature and protect it. The Arctic Fox Initiative lifted up our programs further, giving us the opportunity to share these values with the world.”
The future looks bright for Power To Be. Aside from maintaining their mission to get everyone into nature, they are finalising a new gateway to nature on their 28-hectare property in Prospect Lake, British Columbia. Already a destination of healing, discovery and unconditional belonging, as of spring 2022 the property will have a series of innovative, sustainable and accessible buildings. With them, Power To Be can enhance its programs and elevate its impact even further.
Arctic Fox Initiative