“Let’s go to the place where you can make a lot of noise, where you can yell and shout!”
How do you escape the hustle and bustle of city life? Many Seattle residents seek out the serenity and simplicity in nearby mountains that is rare in the city center. Pack up the car, pick a destination and play. But these adventures are not always so accessible to all.
A common misconception is that non-English-speaking communities don’t care about the environment or need to be “convinced” to go outdoors. But that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Many underserved communities simply do not have the information that comes to long-time or English-speaking residents. They may not know where to go, what to bring, what spoken and unspoken rules to follow.
Seattle’s Bhutanese refugees are intimately familiar with the jungles of their home country. It is their backyard. It is their solace. It is where they can shout and not a soul would hear. Recreating outdoors around Seattle, however, is an entirely unknown prospect for refugees when they first arrive.
The New Arrivals program builds resilient immigrant communities by providing access to environmental learning, resources and experiences like this trip to Deception Pass:
Over 40 Bhutanese community members went on this camping trip, many for the first time! At least, in the United States. The Bhutanese connected with the environment and with each other. And they did it in their own way. Communal dinner (made from scratch!), music and dancing. The energetic spirit was unmatched on the campgrounds.
The community also gained a deep knowledge of the rules, regulations and expectations of camping in the United States. The group learned how to borrow outdoors gear, where to go exploring and — with the help of a friendly park ranger — the appropriate hours for merrymaking.
Trip by trip, the New Arrivals program helps this and other communities regard their new environment as their home environment.
Partnerships with community organizations like the Bhutanese Community Resource Center make New Arrivals connections possible.
Thank you to the Satterberg Foundation, the Rose Foundation and the Cuyamaca Foundation for generously funding outdoor recreation opportunities for diverse communities.
Thank you Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust and the Washington Trails Association for supporting the camping trip.