❄A guest post by Olivia Kefauver, Outdoor Women’s Alliance New England Grassroots Team Leader❄
At thirteen, I was standing in the stern of a canoe wielding my plastic paddle at a cargo ship slowly passing across the St. Lawrence River with five other girls screaming into the wind. As pirates we were (naturally) threatening to commandeer it, but after five days canoeing through the rivers of New York State, powered by nothing more than our own bodies, we had bigger fish to fry than a clunky metal ship. Satisfied with our adventure, we paddled back to the US border where snacks and a hot shower awaited us. I think about that day, and the many others spent adventuring with this wild crew of women, often.
For a few precious weeks each summer I went to a wilderness camp in New York’s central Adirondack Mountains. Taught by female mentors, I learned skills that continue to serve me throughout the course of my adult life. In addition to tangible outdoors skills, I learned to trust in my own ability and judgement and how to be a leader in difficult circumstances. It was these outdoor experiences in the woods and waterways of New York that prepared me for the days ahead — on the trail and in my daily life.
After moving to Boston, I wanted to connect with other outdoor women in my area. I knew they were out there, but being new to the area, I didn’t know how to reach them. When I learned of Outdoor Women’s Alliance (OWA) last fall, everything fell into place. This was, for me, the shortest path toward becoming part of a community of supportive, adventurous women.
Getting outdoors with women is as important to me today as it was thirteen years ago on the St. Lawrence. They give me the extra encouragement I need to leave my comfort zone when trying a new sport, talk out a work problem on a long run, and laugh with me when I take an unexpected slide down a muddy trail. Being surrounded by strong role models and having the support of of a community changes what we believe is possible for ourselves.
After learning from outdoor women representing different walks of life, career paths, and experiences, the surreal realization that we are part of a larger movement hit me. As women who play in outdoor spaces, we have come a long way. But it would be premature to say that we’ve moved past the need for female-focused groups. We need to reinforce our capabilities and the potential that women represent to the world as adventurers, leaders, and community members.
This is what OWA is here to do. Through March 3, 2017, OWA is raising $25,000 to expand a program that allows women worldwide connect, share skills and resources, and build their own in-person communities right where they are. Through this program, OWA serves to strengthen women in leadership not only in the outdoor industry, but in communities everywhere.