Sports Equals Inclusion: the Vamos Outdoors Project
The benefits of getting kids outdoors to experience nature and adventure are numerous, however significant race and class-based inequalities affect access. The team at Vamos Outdoor Project (VOP), has a mission to change those inequalities in the community of Bellingham, Washington. Serving mostly the Latinx and English Learners communities, Vamos works to eliminate barriers to access that make it harder for families to participate in outdoor recreation. The kids that participate in their programs have the opportunity to experience a variety of outdoor adventures including hiking, biking, swimming, and rock climbing, combined with environmental education activities.
As a former Spanish teacher who believes the outdoors makes an ideal immersive classroom, Andy Basabe, the founder of the organization, has seen how participation in VOP programs helps these kids feel more included at school. “Being able to share experiences that their peers are involved in allows them to hold their heads high and be seen in a new light. For some participants, school is not a place of success due to language barriers and other factors. Being able to mountain bike and backpack is a confidence booster and gives them something to talk about at school.”
This summer, we were thrilled to work with VOP in assisting over 25 families with registration fees for a mountain biking program. Because fees are not the only barrier to outdoor recreation, VOP also provides transportation, food, and necessary equipment such as bikes. “Having support from organizations such as Every Kid Sports allows Vamos to confidently plan for future programs and increase capacity. As the kids grow older and gain a continued appreciation for the outdoors, we want to make sure we are able to offer them challenging programs as they increase their skill level. Programs like the Pass will allow us to be sustainable and grow with the kids,” says Basabe.
“Being able to share experiences that their peers are involved in allows them to hold their heads high and be seen in a new light.”
This fall, because many of the kids VOP serves will be affected by remote learning due to COVID, Vamos hopes to provide a program that will give the kids some structure to their day and adult supervision to assist with schoolwork, as well as continued outdoor recreational activities. “Because traditional childcare is not available to many of the families we serve, we want to keep the kids engaged with outdoor experiences.”
We appreciate the team at Vamos Outdoor Project for helping to ensure kids have the opportunity to realize inclusion and connection through shared experiences in the outdoors. Thank you for all your hard work, compassion, and dedication to these kids, and our environment!
– Every Kid Sports