An Open Letter To Our Community

An open letter to our community, 

Jane Goodall once said,”it's easy to become hopeless. So people must have hope: the human brain, the resilience of nature, the energy of young people and the sort of inspiration that you see from so many hundreds of people who tackle tasks that are impossible and never give up and succeed.” 

This quote seems fitting for this trying time. Like many of you, we at OTA are frustrated, saddened and scared by the events that have unfolded over the past week. We are all of these things for our friends, our volunteers, staff and board members and most of all for our participants. 

My personal terror takes on many shapes and often results in unanswered questions that swirl around my head at every hour of the day. How will this effect our participants who are at the core of our work? Our staff and volunteers are trained to handle many emotional and physical emergencies, but in light of the horrific reports of racism, homophobia, misogyny and xenophobia, do they need to be prepared to handle something else? How will this effect the grant makers, foundations and donors we rely on?

We have shared many successes in our short two years of full operation and have much to be proud of. We have grown our participant base from two to over 40. We have increased our gear inventory from just the extras possessed between Kira and I to enough to outfit 12 on a backpacking trip. We have established relationships with outdoor education programs across the country that are ecstatic to provide a safe and inclusive “next step” for our participants, whether that be extended wilderness courses or entering in to the industry as a counselor or trip leader. 

To the best of our knowledge, we were the first organization specifically created to connect queer youth and backcountry tripping through the lens of empowerment, leadership and community. OTA also continues to be the only organization of its specific kind in the United States. Obviously, for us the best part of this work is hanging out with our amazing participants. We learn so much from them, and apparently them from us. We have participants and families who credit OTA’s programs with increased self-confidence, leadership and overall happiness. To quote one parent, "I can already see evidence that [our son] has grown more mature, and confident, from his OTA experience. And as his mom, it brings me so much joy to see him so happy and enthusiastic." 

All of these amazing facts, and yet I lay awake at night wondering what the next six to 12 months will hold, and specifically if we will be able to continue to do this work. OTA has had its success because of true grassroots support and as we transition in to year three I know our success will be marked by this fact. For the first time ever, we are participating in the #GivingTuesday campaign that follows Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday. #GivingTuesday is now an international day of giving, or as well like to call it investing, that helps bring attention to the amazing work being done all over the world. 

Two weeks from today on this year's #GivingTuesday I hope you will join us. Join us through investing. Join us through spreading the word. Join us by posting an #UNSelfie. We believe firmly that in the long run our community will rise as it always has, and we’d like to believe that perhaps now we will find more allies than ever. So, we hope we will see you OUT there. 

 

As always, in solidarity and adventure,

 

Elyse

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