Giving Compass' Take:

• Angely Mercado explains how organizations have made it more accessible for youth of color to safely engage with nature throughout coronavirus.

• What kind of barriers to outdoor engagement existed pre-pandemic for youth of color? How has coronavirus' disproportionate impact on communities of color enlarged these obstacles? How can you support programs that tear down such restrictions?

• Learn about other efforts to equitably connect youth with the outdoors.

Anjolie “Angie” Charles, a 19-year-old from Altadena, California, found herself suddenly homebound when the COVID-19 pandemic began earlier this year.

Charles found herself cut off from the organized outdoor activities, like community gardening, that had previously allowed her to connect with nature. But earlier this month, relief came in the form of a camping and backpacking trip organized by Outward Bound Adventures, a Pasadena-based nonprofit that organizes wilderness activities for youth of color.

Outward Bound Adventures instituted various measures to mitigate transmission risks, including pre-trip COVID-19 testing for all participants, mask-wearing, and spaced seating in the vans that took participants to their remote destination. Nevertheless, organizers who provide youth outdoor and wilderness activities recognize that there are inherent risks to continuing their work during the pandemic, and they have reasoned that getting young people into the wild is worth those risks, if precautions are taken — particularly when they’re working with youth who would not otherwise have access to opportunities like these.

While similar organizations, like Nature for All and Latino Outdoors, have cancelled their summer events and programs, they have continued to encourage nature enthusiasts of color to find safe ways to spend time outdoors despite the pandemic, including by distributing online videos and “how-to” guides that can help people plan their own trips.

Charles Thomas attended backpacking trips organized by Outward Bound Adventures when he was a kid — now he’s the organization’s executive director. In May, he penned a blog post arguing that outdoors programs can help kids build resilience, especially in the face of the pandemic.

“Time spent outdoors has a profound effect on mental health, academic achievement and pro-social normalization,” he wrote. “If there was ever a time when nature was needed, it is now.”

Read the full article about youth of color engaging with nature by Angely Mercado at Grist.