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YES Nature to NeighborhoodsYES Nature to NeighborhoodsYouth Enrichment Strategies Contact: Eric Aaholm
Many children who live in the North, South, and Central Richmond flatlands have never been on an ocean beach, even though it is less than 20 miles from their home. The world-famous Golden Gate Bridge stretches off in the horizon, a symbol of the proximity of wonders that are out of their reach.
Richard Louv, in his seminal work, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder makes the case that “There is something in us that needs nature. When we don’t get it, we don’t do so well.”
YES provides children and families in West Contra Costa access to experiences in the natural environment – opportunities that can ignite the imagination, build self-confidence and enhance social skills. Educators, parents, and camp counselors observe that early exposure to an array of enriching experiences create a child’s sense of possibilities and provide the foundation for success.
Each year since 1999, YES has brought children from gritty and often dangerous Richmond neighborhoods to summer camps located in pristine redwood settings across Northern California. The first difference to strike the children when they arrive at camp is the safety. “There are no gunshots, only crickets,” 8-year-old Arlene said. They can run freely among the car-free fields and trees: for a short time they can experience the limitless joy which should be the birthright of all children.
Over the past 14 years YES has evolved to become a well-established and major promoter of health and wellness practices reaching nearly 1,000 low-income Richmond and West Contra Costa County residents each year.
YES engages youth and adults in outdoor programming through five complimentary programs: 1) the Summer Camp program that supports and sends children to overnight, residential summer camps; 2) the Camp-to-Community youth leadership program for teens ages 14-17; 3) the Family Camp program that provides entire school communities with weekend camp retreats; 4) the Wellness Navigator program that cultivates local adult leaders to adopt and promote health eating and active living practices; and 5) the Day Outings program that brings families to local regional parks. All of YES’ services utilize the outdoors and nature as a platform for asset-building and health and wellness promotion.
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