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Young people from inner-city Bristol enjoyed the benefits of being in nature thanks to a Black2Nature camp supported by Quartet Community Foundation grant.
Black2Nature received £5,000 toward volunteer costs, transport, equipment, subsistence and activity costs for two camps. Black2Nature aims to increase the number of disadvantaged black and minority ethnic young people that get out in nature.
On the first nature camp teenagers aged 12-18 from inner-city Bristol enjoyed two nights in Glastonbury (Camp Avalon). The Chew Valley was the site for the second one-night camp for inner-city youngsters aged 7-11 (Camp Chew).
The young people got busy with birdwatching walks, birding from hides, bird ringing, nature photography, mothing, bat walk, bio blitz, pond dipping, night birding on the Mendips, a visit to The Community Farm to see how food is grown, camp cooking, toasting (vegetarian) marshmallows and feeding farm animals. Everyone was expected to help on the camp site.
Most of the young people lived in Easton, Eastville, St Paul’s, Barton Hill and Southmead, in low income families where parents do not have UK degrees.
Every young person engaged with nature, talked about their concerns for the environment, racism, social isolation, mental health and how they can use nature to improve their mental health.
Many of the teenagers felt a sense of isolation and social exclusion, leading to anger, frustration and reduced academic attainment. They said it was helpful to share their feelings both in the group and in one-to-one sessions when the BAME volunteers mentored and supported them.
Marvin Rees has talked about going on a camp in his teens and realising there was a world outside of St Paul’s which he wanted to be part of. That was when he decided to start studying to go to university.
This is how the attendees feel, engaging with nature, learning how to do this at home and remembering the feelings it gives. This can help them improve their mental health by reducing anxiety, increasing calmness and increasing their inclusion in society and school. The children had not heard of Scouts or Guides, so parents were given the tools to book onto these. They also learned about free places for low income families.
The camps were a great opportunity for the young people to reflect on their lives. Subsequently some returned to school and changed A Levels subjects.
10 year old Anita is from a dual South Asian/White background, she has a six year old brother with severe hearing problems. Her mother has GCSEs and her father has no qualifications. The family is burdened with high debt resulting from years of low income. Both her mum and dad pay £1,000 each every month on rent.
Anita lives in an area that is almost completely White British, well-off and where there is a lot of ignorance and racism. This leaves her and her mum feeling isolated and excluded.
Anita’s parents split up six months ago and she now spends her time going back and forth, as her parents try to share their time with the children. Both her parents work long anti-social hours on low pay trying to make ends meet. They live in an area where property rental prices are very high. Anita has been feeling anxious and down as a result of her parents’ breakup and their increased poverty. Anita did not have tools to deal with her psychological issues.
Anita did not get an opportunity to go for walks or visit parks, due to the hours her parents worked and so spent most of her time watching TV. She had also fallen behind at school. The school had recently highlighted that she was not going to hit the minimum targets for SATS. Anita had suspected Aspergers Syndrome and Dyslexia.
Anita was also spending a lot of time looking after her little brother. Her brother is hard to understand because of hearing problems. As a result others rely on her for translation. This situation made her feel angry and she was losing her temper with her younger brother.
The camps highlighted Anita’s strengths and boosted her confidence
Anita benefited from attending the July Camp Chew. She began to understand the impact of her poor mental health and what she can do to help herself. She realised that she was fantastic at sports and this made her feel more positive about herself.
Anita made new friends from Bristol and shared a tent with girls who were African Caribbean, Sudanese, Somali and White British. She felt positive in this environment and realised it was OK to be different.
Anita loved the nature walks but felt sad that she might not get the chance to do this when she got home. Her little brother’s hearing problems make it difficult for the family to get outside. She agreed that she would talk to one set of grandparents who lived locally. Maybe they can help her go for walks?
With the group’s help Anita was given information on a local Guides group. She may also be able to benefit from reduced price activities for low-income families through the Guides.
Black2Nature plan to run more camps for primary age and teenagers for children from inner-city Bristol. But only if they can get the funding.
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