Jugamos Afuera: Let’s Play Outside
FROM OCF's 2020 ANNUAL REPORT
When Rebecca Easton alerted the Bend-La Pine School board that her low-income distance-learning students had no access to green spaces and lacked social-emotional opportunities due to COVID-19, board member Shimiko Montgomery asked Zavier Borja, program coordinator for Vámonos Outside, to get involved.
The result was a free, culturally relevant after-school program called Jugamos Afuera (Let’s Play Outside). With Rebecca’s help, Zavier and his colleague Wesley Heredia were able to build trust with parents and schedule twice-weekly walks to Kiwanis Park with up to 20 children.
“We reflect this community,” Zavier emphasizes. “We look like them, we can speak their language, and that in itself alleviates so much pressure.”
OCF’s Community Recovery Fund provided support, as did The Paws and Pals Fund, the Capozzi Family Fund and an anonymous donor advised fund.
“My wife, Betty, was born and raised in New York City, and fresh-air activities were a really important thing urban environment with little access to nature and the outdoors. This is a chance for kids that wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to enjoy what nature has to offer.”
OCF Donor, Central Oregon
“We talk about these outdoor experiences during our Zoom classes, and their eyes light up,” Rebecca says. “I mean, some of these kids had never done those activities.”
“It’s been amazing to hear the positive feedback not only from kids and parents, but also from Rebecca,” Zavi says. He hopes that participants will commit themselves to environmental stewardship: “The idea is to get young folks engaged and connected to green spaces so that later in time, they’re going to want to take care of them.”
Zavier would like to see Jugamos Afuera eventually expand beyond Bend: “The vision is definitely there to grow first to new schools here, and then to replicate the program in other counties.”