Giving Back: Volunteering With Big City Mountaineers

I have spent the last 3 1/2 years submersing myself into the outdoor life.   I've hiked and backpacked over a thousand miles (not a lot compared to some, but I'm proud of it).  I've spent countless nights out in the woods, sleeping in tents and most recently, hammocks.  I've experienced the wonders of Montana, British Columbia, and Washington in addition to exploring my home state of Oregon.  I've trekked through Spain and Portugal, walking two routes of the Camino de Santiago.  Through all of this, the one thing constantly running through my mind is: how can I give back?  How can I share my love of the outdoors with others?

 One of many stream crossings last summer in the Olympic National Park.

One of many stream crossings last summer in the Olympic National Park.

For the past two summers (and planning to volunteer this summer!), I have donated a week of my vacation time to serve as an adult mentor with Big City Mountaineers (BCM).  According to their website:

Big City Mountaineers transforms the lives of under-served urban youth through wilderness mentoring expeditions that instill critical life skills. We partner with community-based youth organizations and caring adult volunteers who act as mentors in the field to help young people realize their potential. Our curriculum improves integrity, self- esteem, responsibility, decision-making abilities and communication skills in close to 1,000 youth annually. BCM has a proven track record of improving young peoples’ lives with:
• Increased likeliness to stay in school
• Reduction in violence
• Reduction in drug use
— www.bigcitymountaineers.org/about

That's pretty exciting to me!  There are two things I appreciate about BCM and their program.  One, each group is small and has a one-to-one ratio of adults to youth.  In other words, if there are five adults, there are five youth.  This gives you a chance to really connect with the youth in a meaningful way, while also providing ample opportunities to teach and model various outdoor skills like Leave No Trace, how to build a fire, putting a tent up, packing your backpack properly, and most importantly, how to poop in the woods! 

 Our fearless leader, Jenny showing one of the youth how to read a map.

Our fearless leader, Jenny showing one of the youth how to read a map.

The second thing I appreciate about BCM is each trip is same gender.  They do all female trips and they do all male trips.  I think it is really important for the young women, especially, to have this time to spend together.  They don't have to worry about impressing the boys and it gives them a chance to see that they can do things on their own in a supportive environment.

 Our last night in the backcountry. 

Our last night in the backcountry. 

BCM is currently recruiting volunteers within 200 miles of any of the following cities: Denver, Oakland, Portland, Seattle, Chicago, Minneapolis, or Madison.  The reason they ask this of the volunteers is to improve the quality of the experience for the teens they serve by giving them easier access to volunteers who have more direct training and who can participate in local events and activities more frequently.  If you live near any of these places and are interested in working with young people, please consider applying to volunteer.  If working with kids is not your cup of tea, then consider participating in Summit for Someone, a climbing fundraiser that raises money for program costs.  All information can be found at their website: www.bigcitymountaineers.org.

 Group photo from last summer.

Group photo from last summer.