Jaime Adams spearheads initiative to reconnect marginalized women to the outdoors
By Kristi Alexandra
For many Vancouver city dwellers, a trip to reconvene with nature — get out to a cabin, swim in a lake, or ride a horse — is just a drive, bus, or ferry ride away. For women in Downtown Eastside, it’s a different story. That’s why Jaime Adams, a program coordinator at a local women’s shelter, developed the Forest and the Femme, an non-profit outdoors program for high-barrier women living in Canada’s poorest postal code.
“I had the idea for it while I was working in a women’s transitional housing program,” Adams reveals to Loose Lips.
The mandate of that program was to bring in women who are chronically unhoused, very vulnerable, and are working in the survival sex trade.
“It tended to be women who had a lot of behaviours, mental health [issues], developmental disabilities, and survival based-behaviours,” Adams says, explaining she saw a huge lack of opportunity for the women she was working with.
“If they woke up that day and they didn’t feel like using drugs and they didn’t want to do sex work, they really had nothing else that they could do. We could give them some colouring pictures or pencil crayons and then they’d be bored again,” she says.
“It was really awful to watch these really amazing women have literally nothing. So they would start using, or go out and do dates so that they could use, just because they didn’t know how else to fill their time.”
Many of the women in transitional housing had been living in the insular situation since their teens, and even earlier. Many of them, Adams says, had never connected with the outdoors, even though a lake, a hike, or a waterfall is just 45 minutes to an hour away.
With Forest and the Femme, Adams and select volunteers can take women out of the DTES — just a for a few hours or a day — and on hikes, swims, horseback riding, and sometimes camping.
Adams and FATF go on outings four times per week, with usually one to three women coming on the trips.
“Something changed in my life [at one point] and I was able to access the outdoors. I just wanted to be able to use that and getting out and going up mountains and sleeping outside – it really helped with my anxiety, my confidence, the way I perceived myself… it all really shifted so it seemed kind of obvious for me to share that,” she says.
The women who are picked for the program are selected through referrals from their shelters and case workers. Women who are high-barrier are the best candidates for the program, with developmental disabilities, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, survival sex working, and post-traumatic stress disorder survivors being at the top of mind.
“We do a lot of picnics, because that’s generally how we start our outings with the women and how we grow our trust,” Adams says.
Currently Forest and the Femme is fundraising for the season ahead and is in need of a new vehicle to take the women on trips.
A fundraiser for Forest and the Femme will be held this Thursday, April 7 at the Emerald.
- Live-sets from East Van producers/DJs: Applecat, Bastet, That African & Jonathon Julian
- Live-performance from local performance art collective, Subscura
- Video-Release of production company Wakefield’s short-video about Forest and the Femme
- Special Forest and the Femme menu in partnership with The Emerald
- Silent Auction with items from local artisans, yoga passes, adventure packages & more!
- Door prizes
- A chance to snag your own FATF ‘All my Friends are Wild’ T-shirt or Tank (Unisex)
Buy tickets here.
Kristi Alexandra is an unabashed wino and wannabe musician. Her talents include drinking an entire bottle of cabernet sauvignon, singing in the bathtub, and falling asleep.