Family Barriers to the Outdoors
Outdoor Outreach programs benefit youth who face multiple barriers to accessing the outdoors, such as living farther away from safe green spaces and lacking the transportation to get there. But for many, the perceptions of their families that these places and activities are “not for people like us” is one of the biggest barriers: In a 2016 survey, 54% of Outdoor Outreach’s youth participants responded their families do not support spending time outside.
The reasons are wide-ranging, including parents’ lack of connection with nature, feelings of otherness, fear of undocumented status, or negative associations with the outdoors that are rooted in a history of racial and class-based exclusion.
For Zenab Alasady, the barriers were cultural. Having immigrant parents meant “…I basically grew up in two different worlds. My parents would think: ‘Why would you want to chase dangerous waves, in an ocean filled with many things that can hurt you?’ It was even harder growing up as a girl. Where my parents grew up, outdoor activities were too masculine for a girl to handle… It isn’t easy for a girl growing up no matter what culture you come from, but being a Muslim, Iraqi-American girl growing up in America was especially difficult.”
Alongside Outdoor Outreach, Cox Communications is helping break down these family and cultural barriers to the outdoors. In addition to sponsoring our 2018 Lead the Way gala, Cox Communications recently sponsored a family engagement night at The O’Farrell Charter School; one of the 20 Title I schools where Outdoor Outreach provides year-round out-of-school time adventure programs. On October 25, 2018, more than 50 high school students and their parents/guardians attended an informational session, where they had the chance to hear from Outdoor Outreach staff and student alumni about the programs available and how to get involved. Attendees also had the opportunity to learn about Cox’s Connect2Compete program, which offers low-cost home internet for families that have a K-12 student and receive government assistance.
For teens like Zenab, engaging their families can open doors to programs like Outdoor Outreach’s that provide opportunities for them to share new experiences, overcome challenges, and discover their strengths. Says Zenab, “Many newcomers from the Middle East are now showing up to the same [Outdoor Outreach program] I was a part of. So that is why I want to be a part of [Outdoor Outreach], so I can be [a role model] to those hijabi girls who probably have parents who just don’t understand. Someone a participant can look up to, relate to, or to just feel safe around.”
A big thank you to Cox Communications for their ongoing support!