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Gratitude Attitude

Updated: May 31, 2023

In the past few months we have been so grateful for donations from friends, organisations and companies, to support the work that we do to ensure that we can all have good outdoor lives.

There are many barriers to outdoor participation and there are so many amazing organisations and individuals raising awareness and increasing opportunities for marginalised groups. Awareness has never felt so great. It has moved away from hiding in academic papers into the real world and we are so grateful for the amazing work of Haroon and Muslim Hikers, Steph at Everybody outdoors, campaigning for body size equity, Black trail runners, Kwesia for City Girl in Nature, Queer Out here, Paraclimbing Collective, Adya of People of Colour Paddle, Queer Climbers Bristol, Debbie North, women only groups such as Adventure Queens and Love Her Wild and so many more (checkout All the elements directory) . This is such great news but I know that these groups, leaders and ambassadors are still fighting battles everyday to be seen, heard and understood outdoors and we are so grateful that they are.

In our small corner of the outdoors we are campaigning to support those people who are socio-economically marginalised. These issues are intersectional and often cross over with other marginalised groups particularly for race, gender and disability (there is growing evidence of the overlap between queerness and poverty although this is largely discussed in queer communities but not yet as visible as it needs to be in data about poverty demographics). We know from lived experience that the outdoors is expensive and inaccessible. As well as cost there are often hidden codes to participation. Without the benefit of experience and cultural capital, the outdoors can be an impossible space to enter for work, adventure, fun, play or health.

On the whole people are not too keen to be loud or visible with their poverty. It is hard to do this work when it is impossible to muster poverty pride even when becoming a stronger group. Poverty is not an identity people want to have and it is often not an association that people not in poverty want to have either. Poverty stigma is at an all time high and poverty masking is such an art that you may never know your neighbour, friend or work colleague does not have enough of the basics needed to survive. It is so hard for an organisation like ours to garner support, understanding and the usual media coverage that might elevate us or shine a light on our work and struggles. Spotlighting our participants is unethical when their greatest day to day desire is to not be seen as struggling on a low income.

There is no such thing as poverty positivity.

We are experiencing a cost of living crisis where prices of basics are rising for everyone, most people are experiencing a pinch due to energy, materials and food prices rising, so what is happening to families newly plunged into poverty and what about those families who were struggling with too few resources before the crisis?

Poverty issues are only rising but the problem seems to be invisible.

The cost of living crisis has not done more to raise awareness of poverty but has done more to make more people feel they too are struggling and that resources are scarce for all. Donations to food banks are down. Charities are struggling to raise funds and are closing. The little support available to those struggling to survive is shrinking before our eyes.

71% of children in poverty, live in working households.

The idea that people in poverty are scroungers, shirkers or frauds is clearly not the case. The income from low paid work is simply not enough to live on.

Children from Black and Ethnic groups are more likely to be in poverty.

Almost half of all children from single parent families are in poverty. About 90% of single parents are women.

29% of all children live in poverty, this equates to 9 children in a classroom of 30.

At least 9 kids in the class won’t be able to go on school camp (I know this is a real problem as I have been booked to work with the kids who can’t go on camp-I would put a bet on the fact that these same kids will not do Duke of Edinburgh Award or G.C.S.E Physical Education when they get to year 10.)

The experience of those 9 kids will be very different to the other 21 kids.

The data is clear and cruel.

Last weekend Sunny and I presented a workshop and a talk about food poverty at an outdoor event, (we have both sacrificed our need to poverty mask and are open about our difficulties living in poverty and accessing the outdoors, so that we need not ask others to unmask). The outdoor leaders at this event, may frequently cook food with groups but few people made use of food larders and food surplus organisations to support their groups or didn’t know these community resources existed. It was a wake-up call for us. But then of course we realised that most participants in this outdoor activity would be paying customers and were unlikely to fall into the poverty bracket. This is true of most outdoor provision of course- it is self selecting-if there is a fee to participate, you need kit different to your normal clothing and the outdoors in question requires a car journey then, it is understandable that most leaders of outdoor activity will never meet people on low incomes.

We are divided.

We do not see the experiences of people around us who do not have access to the same things we do. That keeps us in a bubble.

Poverty psychology means we need to distance ourselves from the realities of poverty, we need to feel like people in poverty did something wrong to get there, so we can continue to believe that it could never be us.

As an organisation and as individuals, we work hard to communicate the problems that families with fewer resources face. We work hard to effect policy change, encourage positive representation of low income role models in the outdoors, remove financial barriers to participation, attract funding and support, look for sponsorship, and communicate the barriers faced by many on low incomes but all of these tasks are almost impossible when the problem is not visible to so many.

We continue regardless. As in difficult conditions on expedition we focus on one step at a time.

We understand more than ever that supporting us is a choice and that it can be a hard choice. When societal norms require distancing from poverty we appreciate those who instead choose to lean in.

We are then so grateful for every donation, every pair of grown out wellies or an outdoor coat, the bike, a tent you no longer use, the surplus food, the boxes of donated pre-loved outdoor equipment from Col at Alpkit, the shoes from Sal’s shoes, the fleeces from the Clothes horse, the chance to adventure out of county from the YHA, the platform to speak given by the Forest School Association and the European Outdoor Education Network, the articles published by Adventure Uncovered, all the second breakfasts that you make, the funding from The Fore to support us to run, every social media share, every retweet, BBC Radio Cornwall for the continual love and support, the £10 to our adventure bus fund, every video watched, the school who refers a child to our AP, to every person who says they like what we do, to those leaders who do similar work and totally get it, to every kid who comes back to adventure with us…

We are grateful to you all, you help us to take another step when the summit ahead seems to get further away.

Not all of our work is about poverty but if you remove barriers for people with fewer resources you remove all kinds of barriers for many others. Poverty is intersectional.

Everyone deserves a good outdoor life.

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