What is the Outside INitiative?
It began with a seed of an idea, the kind you find in a pine forest on a day that inspires imagination and possibility. It grew through our collaboration with the Empowerment Program, Denver Center for Crime Victims, and the Victim Services Network and GALS Denver. The curriculum developed through insight and inspiration and its success is founded on the belief that creating access to Nature provides an opportunity for women to learn about themselves from the outside in.
We discovered that the Outside INitiative is one way to develop personal strengths, introduce self-care and create a supportive, sustainable community among women who are climbing beyond a disadvantage to touch the sky. Many of the participants noted they developed a greater understanding of the value of Nature as a way to lower their levels of stress. In fact, the participants connected with new people, discovered they are not alone and developed an appreciation for the power of mindfulness as it relates to creating change in their own lives.
The new and novel experiences of an Outside INitiative retreat reinforce the adaptability and flexibility modeled by the natural world. Seeing, hearing, and on occasion even touching other species, such as a sacred healing tree, invites new perspectives and perceptions. Nature’s Educators often join us and have brought a red-tailed hawk, a corn snake, a screech owl and other natives of the forest as an introduction to the power of diversity and co-existence.
More importantly, here’s what participants have had to say about their experiences…”I have a better understanding of how nature can help me reduce stress and live a better life. I can go hiking in the mountains and not be too afraid. It’s ok to try new things.” Someone else said “I can do anything with anyone whether I know them or not.” Another participant said “silence doesn’t always kill.” It’s a powerful thing to hear someone say that “it was an unexpected moment to know there are women out there who are like me.”
However, the real truth of the Outside INitiative lies in the photographs of the participants.