Forest and the Femme Society

Forest and the Femme Society

Forest and the Femme

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Last Update: June 16, 2014

Forest and the Femme is a non profit, outdoor recreation program for marginalized women living with developmental disabilities. The program was created for women who live with multiple barriers including addiction, poverty, involvement in the survival sex trade, racial oppression and mental health.

Founded: 2012 Type: citizen sector

The Problem

Marginalized women with developmental disabilities are our society's most vulnerable population. Few services exist to serve the needs of these women and finding resources to support their desire for making positive changes can seem impossible. Forest and the Femme provides opportunities to experience the beautiful outdoors, connect with other women, build confidence and feel safe and powerful.

The Solution

Forest and the Femme (FATF) was created to be accessible specifically to women whose multiple barriers prevent them from accessing any existing recreational opportunities. Our program is low-barrier, strengths-based and trauma-informed. Rather than screening individuals out of the program, we screen into it. We do not expect participants to meet the expectations of our program. We create programming that accommodates each woman's unique needs. These women have so much potential and we give them time to shine! Whether we are going for a hike, a canoe or a picnic, we do only what each participant feels safe and comfortable with. FATF gives these incredible women a chance to feel free, connected and hopeful about their place in this world.

Example

The participants of Forest and the Femme are survivors. They have survived the foster system, homelessness, poverty and violence. Having a developmental disability increases the difficulty of navigating our world and these women have made their way through the hardest parts of it. Women who live with inner trauma often carry with them many fears. This is what keeps them safe. One participant came to us wanting to take part but she was so fearful of everything. Water, animals, heights, boats, even being in the forest because she had never been there before. Two years later, this same woman has become our most intrepid explorer. She will go on any activity that we propose. What a privilege to witness her potential bloom this way!

Impact

Since we began in 2012, Forest and the Femme has completed two five-month seasons and we have just kicked off our third. We've learned many valuable lessons along the way about providing accessible, strengths-based and trauma-informed programming. So far we have taken 25 participants and 34 volunteers on 80 outings. That's over 600 hours in the great outdoors! Some of the benefits experienced from our program include: increased sense of confidence and self worth, increased sense of social belonging and spiritual connectedness, increase in self-care skills and improved mental health symptoms (ex: depression, anxiety, and agitation). A thorough program evaluation is being implemented this year. We recognize that our program is innovative, exciting, and is addressing existing gaps in the recreation system. Having ongoing evaluation and evidence-based programming is important.

Full Impact Potential

FATF is a unique and innovative program that provides therapeutic, nature-based activity to an extremely underserved population. Being active in nature has been proven to have a direct and profound ability to support both physical and mental health. The potential to create positive change with our program model is dramatic and creates a ripple effect of hope throughout the entire community. Through securing stable funding, we will be able to increase the number of participants that we can support, our presence in the community, as well as the number and quality of outings and activities.

Budget: $10,000 - $50,000

Financial Sources

Friends and family, Individuals, Businesses

Sustainability Plan

We have begun our third year of recreational programming and this has been made possible by the strong show of community support that we have received. Fundraising, as well as private donations, have been a major source of revenue for our program. Our focus for this year is on financial stability. We plan to work towards partnerships with existing resources in order to secure program sustainability and increase our ability to obtain grants.

Marketplace

Our program is unique in that we successfully access a demographic that many organizations want to engage in their programs but do not have the skills to reach. We have the unique privilege of having started out from within the DTES community, witnessing the gaps and understanding the many barriers that the population faces. We knew what it would take to create programming that would succeed with the population. This will position us to be able to work collaboratively with many established local and national programs that already exist such as Outward Bound and BC Recreation and Parks.

Founding Story

My name is Jaime Adams. I am an adventurer. I love sleeping outside and staring at the stars until my eyes hurt. The smell of moss and leaves is pure bliss. It heals me. I am the founder of Forest and the Femme. I work with some of the most marginalized, isolated women in our society. As a front line worker in Vancouver's DTES I have witnessed our society fail it’s most vulnerable women repeatedly. I became so filled with hopelessness at the things that make it so hard for these women to change their lives. I despaired at what I could do to help these women to feel hopeful. One day I realized that I already knew. It was nature. Nature can heal and make these women feel powerful and brave, they just needed a way there. I did this for them.

Team Explanation

Forest and the Femme is made up of a small army of dedicated volunteers. Each of us brings our own unique set of skills to the program and our education and training ranges widely. From social workers, nurses, counsellors and outdoor guides, our diverse knowledge and passions combine to create rich programming and learning opportunities. We are all passionate about the outdoors, women's issues, and social justice.

Team Members

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Need

We need funding to continue to provide trauma informed, strengths-based and low barrier outdoor programming.

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