Many children who live in urban flat lands of North, South, and Central Richmond have never been on an ocean beach, even though it is less than 20 miles from their home. The world-famous Golden Gate Bridge stretches off in the horizon, a symbol of the proximity of wonders that are out of their reach.
Richard Louv, in his seminal work, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder makes the case that "There is something in us that needs nature. When we don't get it, we don't do so well."
YES Nature to Neighborhoods (formerly Youth Enrichment Strategies) provides youth, adults and families living in Richmond and surrounding West Contra Costa County access to experiences in the natural environment – opportunities that can ignite the imagination, build self-confidence and enhance leadership skills. Educators, parents, and camp counselors observe that early exposure to an array of enriching experiences create a child’s sense of possibilities and provide the foundation for success.
Since 1999, YES has brought nearly 5,000 youth and an additional 1,000 families from low-income Richmond to Summer and Family Camps located in pristine redwood settings across Northern California. The first difference to strike participants when they arrive at camp is the safety. “There are no gunshots, only crickets,” 8-year-old Arlene said. They can run freely among the car-free fields and trees: for a short time they can experience the limitless joy which should be the birthright of all children.
Together with camp experiences, YES offers participants year-round programming focused on leadership development and wellness promotion in schools and neighborhoods. These leadership pathways provide youth and adults a firm foundation of connection, navigation, and productivity – building blocks that lead to individual self-sufficiency and a healthy community.