Summer in Vancouver means it’s time to enjoy all the outdoor spaces the city has to offer. With so many mountains, parks, and beaches right at our doorstep, there are endless opportunities for adventure: and as the weather warms, women in recovery at Union Gospel Mission are preparing to get outdoors. Here’s why this kind of intentional programming is making a difference this summer.
#1 Adventure is for everyone
Sanctuary Aftercare Coordinator Allana saw an opportunity to bring the outdoors to the Women’s Recovery Program after her experiences working in Men’s Recovery. “Before 2021, I worked on the men’s side, where they’d go on hikes and they loved it,” she says. “It’s so good for your mental, spiritual, and physical health.”
Knowing that physical activity plays a vital role in overall well-being, Allana set about bringing Expeditions, our hiking and wilderness program, into women’s programming at UGM. The women’s first outing was a snowshoeing trip in December. They have since done hikes to places like Dog Mountain, and a weekend trip to Bowen Island. With so many hikes being readily available and easy to get to by bus, the program has fun adventures planned for this summer, including an upcoming trip to Quarry Rock in Deep Cove.
#2 Outdoor teamwork builds confidence and connection
Another activity that has challenged and connected the women is kayaking. Allana notes this experience as being especially rewarding. “There were a number of people who had quite a bit of anxiety about it,” she says. “But they still tried something new. Even though they were nervous about the open water or tipping over, they went into a situation where they were able to overcome that anxiety. The women really came together and supported one another.” One participant loved being on the water so much that she purchased an inflatable kayak that she now uses with her son.
Outdoor expeditions are strengthening families in so many meaningful ways. “One of the women who came now goes on hikes with her son,” Allana says. “I think that it’s just so cool that they're able to experience this as a family. Those family memories are important and special. It’s really helpful in generating new ideas for family outings and to continue that momentum.”
#3 Recovery lives in the body
Outside of one-off excursions, women in recovery have access to more regularly scheduled physical activities. The group goes to Aquafit classes once a week, and the Women & Families Centre also runs boxing classes to help cultivate a sense of empowerment and self-confidence among the women involved.
“A big part of addiction is to escape and to transcend the body, rather than feel your body,” Allana says. “Coming back into recovery, participants have been in a season where they’ve not listened to their bodies’ cues. Their weight might have changed, their strength has changed, their stamina has changed. For people to have an experience where they think, ‘I’m anxious about this and I don’t think I can do it’ but then take the mental step and realize that their bodies are still capable—it’s quite empowering for women. They see that there’s hope and more opportunity than they realized.”
#4 When we support each other, there are no limits
As women encourage each other and tackle new experiences, they’re finding their way to greater self-esteem and optimism. This kind of work can only happen in a positive and caring community. When asked how others can help to support the program, Allana mentions that they are always in need of hiking equipment like walking poles, backpacks, and jackets. Donations of sunscreen or gift cards to outdoor stores are also deeply impactful.
Through the exploration of Vancouver’s backyard and the challenge of conquering trails, women in recovery at Union Gospel Mission are invited to overcome obstacles, build resilience, and gain a renewed sense of purpose. By supporting programs like this, you contribute to the transformation and empowerment of women in their journey towards recovery, providing them with the tools and experiences needed to thrive in life’s many adventures.
Read more about the exciting programming at the Women & Families Centre, and learn how your engagement is lifting communities.
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