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AmeriCorps VISTA's Reflection on the Conference

At Camp Fire Central Texas, I have been volunteering full-time as an AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) in area of fundraising and development. As an AmeriCorps VISTA, my aim is to increase access to Camp Fire’s nature-based and outdoor programs, particularly for low-income populations. My inherent love for nature and the outdoors was something my parents and schoolteachers helped to foster in my childhood and youth.

As I began my position at Camp Fire, it was startling to me to discover that kids in the United States do not have the same opportunities or outdoor experiences that I took for granted. Delving deeper into the Children and Nature Network community and mission, I realized that the fear of nature is more prevalent than I could have ever expected, and that the consequences of “nature deficit disorder” are real and severe.

I often find it difficult to relay such an important message about reconnecting kids with nature, when it’s something that has been engrained in me since childhood. However, I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the Children and Nature Network Conference in Austin, TX in April 2015, where I was able to connect with other thought-provokers and advocates in my local community and network on behalf of Camp Fire Central Texas. Not only did the conference offer me the chance to connect with local leaders, I walked away with a better understanding of how to communicate the significant need to reconnect children with nature. As a fundraiser, being equipped with the proper language and relevant statistics is critical when writing persuasively and conveying the mission of an organization or movement.

Attending the Children and Nature Network Conference was truly eye opening and inspiring. It expanded my knowledge of the consequences of “nature deficit disorder” not only for individuals, but for communities as a whole. Fear of the outdoors can diminish an individual’s sense of community and belonging because they are not interacting with the living world around them, which includes both nature and their neighbors. The conference reinvigorated my passion and vision to create a beautiful, nature-rich future with the next generation of environmental leaders at the helm.

For more information about VISTA and AmeriCorp please visit: http://www.nationalservice.gov/programs/americorps/americorps-vista