The audio journal about getting into the wilderness.
The WildeBeat edition 108: Inner-City Outings, part 2
This is a supplementary transcript of our audio program. CLICK HERE to listen to the original program, and see the associated show notes.
GABRIELLA: Like, it's like kind of fun coming up here, and seeing different animals and plants that you really don't see in the city.
STEVE: This week on The WildeBeat; Inner-City Outings, part two.
[Intro Music & SFX; 0:07.6 and under]
News from the Wildebeat, the audio journal about getting into the wilderness.
This is program number one oh eight, made possible by your membership donations.
I'm Steve Sergeant.
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STEVE: Last time, in part one, we heard from Debra Asher. Debra is the nationwide administrator of the Sierra Club's Inner-City Outings program, which she calls I-C-O.
DEBRA ASHER: The official mission statement of I-C-O is that it's a Sierra Club community outreach program that provides opportunities for urban youth and adults to explore, enjoy, and protect the natural world. It does that via bringing positive outdoor experiences, to primarily youth... who would otherwise never have a chance to do this kind of stuff.
[SFX: Fade up mealtime]
STEVE: I'm at the Arroyo Seco campground in California's Los Padres National Forest. The sun just set a couple of minutes ago. I-C-O leader Larry Volpe, and his co-leaders, are about ready to serve dinner to a dozen grade-school-aged campers.
LARRY VOLPE: My plan is usually to get kids just away from the amenities. To get out and see what it's like to experience the wilderness without shoe stores, without ice cream stores, and to enjoy the tranquility that these places bring and how important it is to have these places for these kids to see and enjoy when they have children, and grandchildren.
STEVE: Gabriella is an eighth grade student who started going on outings with Larry Volpe when she was in his fifth grade class.
GABRIELLA: I've been rafting, I've been in snow trips, camping here. I've been to Henry Coe... And I've been to about 20 trips.
STEVE: Wow! So you're like, an expert.
STEVE: Do you feel like it when you're with the other kids? Do you feel like you're the one that's helping to teach them?
GABRIELLA: Yeah, because when we were coming walking up the hill I was helping everyone come up so they wouldn't fall, because it was their first time.
STEVE: And do you think this is good for the other kids? I mean, do you think that it does good things for them? It makes them better somehow?
GABRIELLA: Yeah, they can feel like if they're special, they can feel more encouraged to do things.
STEVE: Graciella is one of Larry Volpe's fifth-grade students.
STEVE: Can you think of any reason why a kid wouldn't have fun on a trip like this?
GRACIELLA: Because they don't like being in outdoors areas, like a baked potato on the couch watching T-V. And they don't like to do exercising.
STEVE: And you do?
GRACIELLA: Yeah. It's fun when you do it with other people.
STEVE: Graciella's mom, Francesca, is one of the assistant leaders on the trip.
FRANCESCA YANNIS: Oh what a beautiful experience because she doesn't have the opportunity in San Jose. See, we're very crowded there, and then to just go out into the nature, look at animals close, insects, the water, the lake, the river, hiking, oh my God, ...well, too many things!
STEVE: Do you think what the Sierra Club is doing with the Inner City Outings is important?
FRANCESCA: Oh yes, absolutely. Right now like I'm walking towards the camp I told my daughter I don't even feel sick. I feel like I just want to stay here. It's so calm. To see the nature, it's like why are we going back to the city? But you know you have to go back. But you know, it made me feel relaxing. It's like a daydreaming. I feel that way.
STEVE: If a parent of a friend of your daughter's is afraid to let their child go on a trip like this, what would you say to them?
FRANCESCA: No. Let them go. Let them go. Nothing is going to happen. There are a lot of responsible people who are taking them, plus it's going to be a beautiful experience, and sometimes the time doesn't come back. Just let them go. Especially to this place.
LARRY VOLPE: I like to bring these experiences to kids that I know they're not enjoying these things that I did when I was a kid. You know, when I was a kid, I was doing things that, when I was as young as eight, where I couldn't imagine these kids doing it in high school because they have no access to it. It was just me going out my door and walking a mile to the river and jumping off a cliff, or throwing a fishing pole in the water, or when it was safe to hitchhike a couple of miles when I grew up in New York, to go to my favorite swimhole or lake or river, or to trudge through the snow into the mountains and clear a pond off and do some ice skating, and I like to just bring those experiences to these kids because I know they're not getting it.
STEVE: Why does this whole effort matter to you?
LARRY VOLPE: You know, I grew up in places where I never saw a sign that said don't eat the fish because there mercury in the water, or don't swim here because there's toxic sludge of some kind of sewage effluent, and when I grew up I saw those things in places, and it just blew me away, and I know for a fact we need more people out there who, when they see something like that, they feel in their heart that it's so wrong, that those kinds of things need to stop no matter what the cost, no matter what the economic agenda is, you know there's ...animals out there, that just deserve to live... We need more people to feel like that, especially people of color. I've been to probably a hundred national parks in this country in the forty eight, Hawaii, and Alaska, and I've probably can count the number of people I've seen of color, African American descent or Latino descent... on each visit I can count on one hand, and we need those kinds of folks, if it's in the best interest of conservation, ...we need those people to have it in their best interest to be conservation minded and to just care because it's there, and it should be there.
STEVE: If you have someone who is thinking of being a volunteer... What might be the reward for them?
LARRY VOLPE: The reward would be something as simple as hearing a kid who has just climbed up a mountain, or ran through a class three shoot in a river, screaming with joy, and for the first time enjoying something, and being able to put into words what they got out of it, or just some of the responses you hear from kids of experiencing something for the first time, or just the smile on their face when you see them do something that no kid their age that they know has ever done in their community. And it's really hard to put into words how you feel when you see a kid doing something for the fist time, and then they express to you their joy in different ways, it could be a smile, it could be a squeal of laughter, it could be them being able to vocalize what it is that they're feeling.
STEVE: As the kids all line-up for dinner, they look engaged and enthusiastic. Being served a healthy, hearty dinner looks like a treat to them, not a disappointment. More impressively, they look completely at home here, just outside of the rugged Ventana Wilderness.
[SFX: Fade out mealtime.]
STEVE: Back at the Sierra Club headquarters in San Francisco, Debra Asher looks for more volunteers who want to make a difference in kids' lives.
DEBRA ASHER: If there's not a group nearby where you live, we can try to connect you with one close, or if you're interested in starting up a program, we're always looking for more groups... We figure whatever exposure, and whatever getting kids out, which has become this huge national issue with the obesity stuff, and kids spending so much time indoors on computers and people fearing their kids to be outside. This is a great way to kind of ease that problem. I see it, as much as we struggle in many ways, with funding and volunteerism, it keeps growing.... but the volunteers say it's really worthwhile if ...you appreciate the outdoors, and to just share it with someone who would just be indoors otherwise. It's a great feeling.
STEVE: In the interest of full disclosure, I have an affiliation with the Sierra Club, as an outing leader for a separate section.
STEVE: Do you have experience with the Sierra Club's Inner City Outings, or with groups that do similar work? We'd like to hear about it, or about anything else you think about our show. You can call our toll-free comment line at 866-590-7373. To find out more about helping the I-C-O program, or getting their support for your school or group, please follow the links on our web site.
STEVE: And our thanks to Wilderness Press. For a limited time, become a WildeBeat member and get up to five books from Wilderness Press as a thank you gift.
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Our official website is WWW dot WILDEBEAT (that's W-I-L-D-E-B-E-A-T) dot NET. You can help us help more folks to appreciate our wild public lands, by clicking on our support link to become a member. The WildeBeat is produced by Steve Sergeant, with help from Jean Higham, as a nonprofit educational project of Earth Island Institute.
This has been The WildeBeat, program number one oh eight. Thank you for listening.
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Next time -- Creatures of the night.