Vamos Outdoors Project builds community for Latinx and English Language Learner families through outdoor activities. Programs empower participants, building confidence and connection to the land. Programs are supported by representational mentors and volunteers.
Vamos Outdoors Project connects youth to the land through backpacking trips in northwest Washington. Trips are 3 days long, accessing lands traditionally occupied by the Coast Salish, Nooksack, and Okanagan people. Participants get to connect to new places and ecosystems, learning about themselves, the land they are living on, and the joy of getting outside. All equipment, food, and transportation are provided. Each year Vamos usually offers a snow camping trip at Artist’s Point, backpacking along Baker Lake, and a Highway 20 through hike through 4th of July Pass.
Vamos a Cordata Park
As part of Cordata Elementary’s after school club program, Vamos Outdoors Project takes youth to Juliana Park, on traditional Coast Salish People’s territory, to connect with nature through the Spanish language. The program is in Spanish, working on building comfort and confidence in outdoor settings, as well as building and maintaining language skills. Students navigate the park and surrounding forest, play games, build structures, and use all of their senses in ninety minute outings. This program is free to students, and runs for 8 weeks in the spring and fall. Student highlights are bunny tracking, mapping the landmarks between the school and the park, scrambling through the terrain alongside the trail, and role-playing their life-size fairy house.
Vamos a Galbraith
Vamos Outdoors Project heads to Galbraith weekly to learn the mountain on bikes. Under the guidance of certified volunteer ride leaders, Latinx and English Language Learner youth build the skills and confidence necessary to navigate the trails.
All bikes, helmets, and other safety gear is provided. Participants start the trip with a short meal to make sure everyone has the energy to ride, and snacks are available throughout the ride. Transportation is provided by Vamos.
Along with covering basic mountain bike skills and outdoor recreation safety, these excursions foster cultural empowerment, confidence, and leadership skills. Participants get a chance to share experiences in Spanish with representative role models, make new friends, and build their sense of place within Whatcom County. Mountain biking is presented as a premier outdoor activity in Bellingham, but financial and logistical barriers make it an activity for the privileged.
Vamos Outdoors Project is excited to build community through connecting new people, new places, and new activities. Thank you to the Whatcom Mountain Bike Coalition and its supporters for making this program a reality and getting access to brand new bikes!
Vamos Climbs at VITAL
Each month, Vamos Outdoors Project and up to 5 Latinx and English Language Learner youth visit VITAL climbing gym to play and climb. Alongside volunteer chaperones, participants experiment with balance, strength, and tenacity to challenge their own limits. Along with learning the basics of climbing, students experience growth in cultural empowerment and personal confidence.
Vamos at the YMCA
Vamos Outdoors Project visits the YMCA weekly for swimming lessons and rock climbing lessons for Latinx and English Language Learner youth.
Vamos and the YMCA provide all necessary equipment and transportation, as well as a post swim meal to keep the participants energized. People of color are much more at risk to die or become injured in water related activities, as 64% of Black children and 45% of Hispanic children cannot swim. Studies show that if a parent does not know how to swim, it is only 13% likely the their children will learn to swim. Building a legacy of future safe swimmers is a goal of this program, as well as fostering cultural empowerment and confidence.
This program also addresses representation and language attrition through representative role models and the use of the Spanish language in a public setting. Thanks to our volunteers and the YMCA for making this opportunity a reality.
Thanks to the Bellingham Mountaineers and the American Alpine Institute for offering outdoor climbing activities for Vamos. Following participants from their introduction to climbing indoor to tying into the rope outdoors is a great journey. Participants get to experience the joy of movement on rock and challenge themselves to move in new ways. Hoping to get back outside in 2021!
Migrant Youth Summer School
Vamos Outdoors Project works with the Bellingham School District to work with Latinx and English Language Learner youth to bring educational opportunities that recognize the lived experiences of the staff and participants. Vamos runs a summer school program for migrant youth, providing educational instruction combined with outdoor experiences from partner organizations. Students engage with topics including indigeneity, connection to the land, representation, and racism, through the subjects of art, literature, social studies, math, and science. Students are given an educational platform where their own lives are centered in the educational content. Students rode bikes, navigated Whatcom Falls Park and Galbraith Mountain on foot and on bike, learned local ecology, and got to play outside. This program is an amazing opportunity for empowering young people to share their lives and knowledge through representational mentorship in formal and informal educational settings. Everyone’s lived experience should be recognized in schools.
Vamos Outdoors Project is partnering with multiple community-based outdoor organizations, led by Wild Whatcom, to provide in-person support for families who depend on school districts for resources such as childcare, meals, and academics. This program serves youth speaking at least 13 languages, many of whom, do not have an english speaking family member at home to assist them with their english language academics during remote learning. Students come to school in-person, getting support for from mentors during their academic online learning, then head outside to participate in activities such as biking, art, garden education, games, and other activities provided by community partners. Program goals are to reduce inequities in education and youth development due to lack of access to resources during quarantine, as well as support parents who are forced to work during quarantine as they do not qualify for the same benefits accessed by american citizens. This program is a shining example of community organizations collaborating to address emerging community needs, in partnership with the school district.
Gear-Up Burlington Edison School District
Vamos Outdoors Project partners with the Gear-Up Program at Burlington Edison School District, to offer outdoor activities and safe social time for 6th-9th graders during COVID-19. Students enjoyed activities such as a scavenger hunt, frisbee golf, salmon education, games, and leadership activities. Thanks to Burlington-Edison School District, the Gear-Up Program, and Skagit County Parks for supporting this activity.