The Heart of Facilitation

Language can, at times, be confusing until there is a shared understanding of what certain words or terms mean. One specific instance of this, can be the common misunderstanding or use of the concept of therapeutic or wilderness therapy. The wilderness, community, and connection can be powerful forces for positive change, collectively and individually. Time in nature and creating the space for authentic human connections can have beneficial outcomes for all people; and in particular, those who feel isolated in their circumstances or need an opportunity to have some distance from a specific challenge or story.

As a facilitator, I am not a counselor, nor do I attempt to provide counseling or advising beyond my scope of expertise or training. My hope is to hold each individual capable and able, to trust that you know best for yourself, and to create opportunities for you to both hear and listen to yourself; as well as make connections with your peers in the circle, whose stories also have wisdom to share. My facilitation style is to ask questions that help you find your way to your own voice, to uncover needs and pieces of your identity that may have gotten buried underneath the weight of illness, injury, trauma, chaos, or disappointment. I don’t give advice or tell you what you should be doing – but rather, aim to provide experiences and reflective activities that help you find your own answers.

Beyond those opportunities for personal reflection, there is also the invitation to share those discoveries or questions out loud with the group – to be witnessed, acknowledged, and celebrated. At times, these discoveries of something you would like to reclaim, accept, celebrate, or change can be both powerful and challenging. It’s important as the facilitator, that I am not taking us into territory that we can’t find our way through – that to ensure the safety and health of the group, that we only venture to the places we can find our way back. Working with practical ideas about how to carry these important discoveries back home is an essential part of our conversations as we near the end of each program.

There is also the important element of what discoveries or reflections come after the program has ended. Often, it can take awhile to digest an experience, and to feel or realize what has been gained. For some, to actualize a step or change one might like to take, can be instantaneous – for most of us though, it can take a lot of effort, strategies, and support. It is the hope and intention that the Eddy Out reunion activities can provide some of that support and inspiration, as well as continued engagement in relationships that are formed during our days together on the river.

The discoveries we make in the wilderness can be both powerful and subtle. Sometimes, just being out, away from routines, habits, or circumstances is the reprieve and perspective needed. Other times, the reflections and experience of being witnessed by a supportive group of peers or mentors is the catalyst for positive change. And in other moments, it’s just floating on the river, feeling the current as a partner in your journey, the rapids offering self-reflection on your own capacities, the night sky a mysterious and encouraging friend. Every element of a LEAP program can provide impact depending on what speaks to each participant in that moment of life. The wilderness elements are thoughtfully navigated and enjoyed, and the many human elements are given equal, if not greater, consideration and care.  

-- Valerie

Beyond the Flagship

There are a handful of questions we are consistently asking at LEAP: How do we offer this opportunity to more people? What more can we offer our partner communities? How do we create more touch-points for the communities that get built on each of our programs in the summer? There are of course also questions that fuel the refinement of what is already so good about our programs, to enhance our impact in subtle yet significant ways.

Through taking up these questions over these first many months as Program Director, and through extensive and on-going conversations with partner staff, I’ve been developing a set of new program offerings and curriculum, as well as refining the impactful multi-day kayak programs that have been the cornerstone of the LEAP vision. In 2018, we will facilitate four new types of programs alongside continuing to offer our long-standing and primary river programs. Our wilderness river programs will continue to be our Flagship offering – the original and well-tended LEAP experience.

We will also incorporate a new version of our reunion gatherings – Eddy Out offerings will be day or half-day events each Fall for each Flagship group to reunite, touch-in about goals, celebrate progress, and reinvigorate friendships. As a 2017 participant said: I learned that it is okay to “eddy out” of life and regroup, rest, and reset. That’s what we hope our Eddy Out programs offer to each individual and group. These programs may often include a family engagement component for groups where that is applicable and appropriate.

In explorations with partner staff, it was shared that for many prospective participants it can be challenging for them to imagine themselves in such a different setting, doing an activity that is completely new to them, for an entire week. In the hopes to engage more participants who may experience this and other barriers to attending our Flagship program in Idaho, we will facilitate three new programs that are shorter in duration and a bit closer to home.

Our Explore offering will be one-day programs, often involving an outdoor or river-based activity, operating in the Portland Metro area. These day-length programs will offer fun, new experiences, and opportunities to connect with peers who have experienced similar situations. Explore programs can be geared toward middle-school-aged youth who aren’t old enough for our Flagship programs or specific sub-sets of the populations we serve such as LBGTQ youth, youth preparing for life post-high school, or youth who remain in treatment for an illness where they are unable to travel longer distances.

Our Immersion offering will be overnight or weekend programs that offer skill-building, community building, and an overnight entry-point for participants who have more significant barriers to attending our Flagship programs. Immersions will be offered in the spring and fall at destinations around Oregon, either camping or in cabins, and are focused on similar populations as our Explore programs. Immersions will offer extended access in inspiring locations that are ripe for learning, personal reflection, and various movement activities.

ReRun will be a weekly program, operating at partner sites for specific populations. A favorite activity on our Flagship program is the opportunity to “rerun” a rapid, as a way to push oneself, build skills, and gain confidence. Our ReRun programs will offer that same opportunity for groups in their own backyard; whether utilized as preparation and community-building for an upcoming Flagship program, a platform for developing life and leadership skills, or creating a safe space for learning, group processing, and personal reflection or goal-setting.

These offerings will begin with three of our partners and specific populations within those communities. For Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, we will offer a spring Explore and fall Immersion program for middle-school aged patients. With New Avenues for Youth, we will partner specifically with their SMYRC (Sexual & Gender Minority Youth Resource Center) program for a spring Explore and fall ReRun program. For Friends of the Children, we will offer both a spring and fall ReRun after-school program – in the spring as a way to form, orient, and support the group that will join us on their Flagship program in Idaho, and in the fall for middle-school aged students. I look forward to sharing about each experience as we flow through the year.

It’s an exciting time at LEAP with many good things to come. We are grateful for your on-going engagement and support as we grow our program offerings in significant ways in 2018. Next Thursday I’ll share more about specific elements that weave through this family of programs. Keep in touch, and paddle on. 

-- Valerie