Forest and the Femme seeks crowdfunding support for Downtown Eastside women’s outdoor program

Vancouver nonprofit needs to replace worn-out SUV

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      This summer, Jaime Adams is planning to take marginalized Downtown Eastside women on hikes to Cheakamus Lake and Joffre Lakes and visits to the Gulf Islands.

      But the founder and program coordinator of Vancouver’s Forest and the Femme Society told the Georgia Straight it’ll be difficult to make this all happen unless the nonprofit, with its shoestring budget, is able to replacing its dying sport utility vehicle.

      “The entire program is run out of the vehicle,” Adams said by phone from East Van. “We use it seven days a week for about six months of the year, doing outreach and then outings and location scouting and all the different preparations for the outings. So it gets used constantly, and if we don’t have a vehicle, basically there is no program.”

      That’s why Forest and the Femme has launched a crowdfunding campaign on GoFundMe seeking $12,000 in donations so the organization can buy a “safe and reliable” SUV in time to kick off its 2015 summer season on June 1.

      Forest and the Femme is an outdoor-recreation program for mostly aboriginal, self-identified women from the Downtown Eastside who are dealing with health challenges such as fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, developmental disabilities, psychological trauma, HIV, and hepatitis C, and who have experienced drug addiction, homelessness, and sex work.

      A typical outing sees Adams, three participants, and two volunteers head to Lynn Headwaters Regional Park, Pitt Lake, or the Squamish River estuary. Participants, who are mostly in their 30s and 40s, are fed breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

      Find out more about Forest and the Femme.

      According to Adams, Forest and the Femme took marginalized women on 57 outings in 2014. She’s aiming for 50 outings, involving 25 participants, this year.

      “I’m feeling really hopeful and optimistic about it, because Forest and the Femme needs to keep on happening,” said Adams, who works part-time as a front-line support worker in the Downtown Eastside. “It’s a really important program to the women down there. Basically, if we don’t have the vehicle replaced, the women won’t have any access to green spaces outside of the Downtown Eastside.”

      Adams asserted the program helps participants make friends, feel a sense of community and less social isolation, and get exercise and nutritious meals. Many of them say it gives them a sense of hope, she added.

      Forest and the Femme's founder takes in the view from Mount Co-Crumpit in Squamish.
      Stephen Hui

      If people want to help keep Forest and the Femme going, Adams said, they can do so by donating on GoFundMe or sharing the campaign on social media.

      Hastings Racecourse has pitched in by selecting Forest and the Femme for one of its Community Days and pledging a $5,000 donation. On June 7, the nonprofit will hold a fundraiser at the racetrack. Both the Racecourse’s donation and proceeds from the event will go toward Forest and the Femme’s core programming costs.

      Adams noted she understands that many people are feeling “crowdfunding fatigue” these days.

      “This is a very special program,” Adams said. “It’s very unique. There aren’t any similar to it, and I think the women that are stuck in the Downtown Eastside deserve to have access to the outdoors just like everybody else.”