New Arrivals program is a featured social innovation

Bhutanese hiking trip to Mt. Si. Photo Credit: ECOSS.

Many immigrants and refugees appreciate the environment and want to protect nature, but are unaware of opportunities to do so in new surroundings. The New Arrivals program connects these new Seattle residents to environmental education, outdoor opportunities and more.

Read about how and why the New Arrivals program focuses on multicultural outreach in this feature with the Social Innovations Journal!

Learn more about New Arrivals

The New Arrivals program is generously supported by the Satterberg Foundation, the Rose Foundation and the Cuyamaca Foundation.

Bhutanese community comes alive at Duwamish Alive!

Autumn is a great time for habitat restoration around Puget Sound. The start of the rainy season means softer soils, perfect for invasive weed removal and native vegetation planting.

Although cloudy skies may not be the most exciting outdoors weather, that could not dampen the enthusiasm of nearly 40 volunteers who showed up at the Duwamish Hill Preserve! Gathered around the site’s Seasonal Round, volunteers learned about the history of the preserve, the Salish peoples and the cultural and ecological significance of the plants around them.

ECOSS Multicultural Outreach Manager Allan Kafley talking about how indigenous tribes were connected to native plants and how local wildlife benefits. Photo Credit: Sam Le.

Then it was time to put on gloves and grab the shovels. With twice as many volunteers as expected, the group quickly dug out invasive weeds, replaced them with native shrubs and helped protect this unique ecosystem and cultural site! Adjacent to the Duwamish River, this site — like others being restored within the Duwamish Alive Coalition — also supports salmon by reducing pollution in the river.

 

Habitat restoration volunteering is a great way to build connections with the environment and with one’s community. Not much can compare to the feeling of encountering the animals that you are working to protect while restoring habitat. The New Arrivals program promotes access to these and other experiences for immigrants and refugees.

Learn more about New Arrivals

Thank you Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust for partnering with us and sharing your restoration expertise. Thank you Bhutanese Community Resource Center for helping bring volunteers from the Bhutanese community! Thank you to Rotary Club of Seattle for funding environmental equity work. And thank you Duwamish Alive Coalition for including us to make environmental education and connections accessible to all!

What does camping mean for the Bhutanese community?

“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.

Part of the collection of gear the Bhutanese community brought camping at Deception Pass. Photo Credit: Allan Kafley / ECOSS.

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.

Bhutanese community gathering to cook communal meals for over 40 campers. Photo Credit: Allan Kafley / ECOSS.

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.

Learn more about New Arrivals!

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.

Sophorn Sim Named a Puget Sound Future-maker

Getting used to a new region can be daunting. Where do you shop for groceries? How do you connect with your neighbors? What customs should you be aware of? For immigrants and refugees, potential language and cultural barriers make this adjustment period extra difficult. And these difficulties can have adverse health effects, such as unknowingly consuming contaminated seafood.

But Community Outreach Associate Sophorn Sim is training community members to be advocates for healthy food and to raise awareness of the chemicals in the Duwamish River, drawing from her own experiences as a refugee. The Seattle Globalist’s recently featured her in their Puget Sound Future-maker series! Congratulations Sophorn!

By training local community members, we meet communities where they are – in their language, through their culture – to promote healthy, thriving communities.

Learn more about our New Arrivals program

Increasing Access to the Outdoors – One Trailhead at a Time

The Pacific Northwest is heralded as a hiker’s paradise. According to a recent economic analysis, the average Washington state resident spends nearly a full two months recreating outdoors every year!

Trailhead Direct Logo

Yet, some communities are still not able to enjoy these Pacific Northwest splendors. One of the greatest barriers is the lack of transportation access. To reach beyond urban centers, you need a car. At least, that was the case until recently.

Trailhead Direct is an expanding program that leverages public transit to provide affordable, accessible transportation to the outdoors. Jointly led by King County Parks and King County Metro, Trailhead Direct offers direct routes between transit centers in Capitol Hill and Mt. Baker to trailheads at Mt. Si, Issaquah Alps and Mailbox Peak.

Bhutanese Community Members at Cedar River Watershed

Bhutanese Community Members at Cedar River Watershed

Over the summer months, ECOSS staff will plan and lead groups on hikes via Trailhead Direct. Be on the lookout for opportunities to get involved! And thanks to the generous support of King County Parks and The Wilderness Society, ECOSS is excited to broaden the reach of Trailhead Direct to diverse communities. We specialize in multicultural outreach, using our staff’s ability to speak over a dozen languages. Through our New Arrivals Program, we connect immigrants and refugees with opportunities to engage with their environment. Trailhead Direct enables us to provide more transportation options and make outdoor recreation a more accessible and inclusive activity for all.

Thank you to Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust for connecting us to this exciting program!

Learn More About Our Multicultural Approach

On the Radio-ECOSS Superhero Sophorn Sim

 

Three smiling women posing for a photo.

KNKX’s Bellamy Pailthorp (left) and Jennifer Wing (right) interview ECOSS’ Sophorn Sim (center) at a popular Duwamish River fishing spot. Sophorn has done a lot of outreach here, educating angler’s that salmon is the only safe fish to eat from the river.

ECOSS Community Outreach Associate Sophorn Sim has spent much of her adult life dedicated to building healthy, resilient communities.

On the KNKX radio show Sound Effect, Sophorn shares her story and how her experience guides her work to connect refugees and immigrants to their new home.

Her story will give you a real understanding of what it’s like to be a refugee and why it’s important for everyone to have access to environmental education and resources.