CBC Ottawa asked Oceane Mutombo and Kyanna McPherson to film their recent camping trip with the group Women of Colour Remake Wellness.
Less than 24 hours before her first camping trip, Kyanna McPherson anxiously watched a video on how to pitch a tent.
“I didn’t know the first thing about [it], ” joked the 27-year-old, who recently took part in a group trip to Voyageur Provincial Park, east of Ottawa. It was the first overnight excursion by the group, called Women of Colour Remake Wellness, which aims to make the outdoors more accessible to BIPOC communities.
“Let’s be real, women of colour don’t really get a chance to go camping. So this is a good way for women to be safe, comfortable and to have experiences we don’t usually get, ” said McPherson, who admitted that beforehand she was nervous about sleeping outdoors among the insects and wildlife.
These are the kinds of anxieties Biatris Lasu hopes to ease with the group trips she organizes.
“The outdoors are a space to heal and explore and we shouldn’t be putting labels on who belongs, ” said Lasu, who secured camping gear, transportation and food for the 10 BIPOC women who participated.
In the past, Lasu has organized outdoor yoga and hiking trips for the group, but she wanted to do something more to make these typical Canadian experiences more accessible for those who didn’t feel equipped to take them on by themselves.
That includes 23-year-old Keesha Mu who said she signed up for the girl first-ever camping trip so she could have the freedom to ask questions without feeling incompetent.
“When I’ve been in white spaces where people are used to camping, I’ve felt judged or stupid for asking the wrong question, ” said Mu, who wanted to learn things like what kind of gear to bring and how to stay warm during the night.
Getting comfortable outside
Oceane Mutombo, 27, signed up for the trip to get out of her comfort zone. During the trip the girl learned how to start a campfire and cook dinner on an open up flame.
“My eyes were burning from the smoke, but you’ve got to do what you got to do if you want to eat, ” the lady laughed.
Mutombo said she enjoyed her treks through the woods, dancing and telling stories around the campfire with the other women.
Mutombo’s only complaint was that it went by too quickly. After breakfast and a hike, the group broke down their tents and packed up their own cars to return to the city.
“We made it sleeping in the woods for a night. We didn’t see any bears or wolves, ” she said.
“It was a blast and I definitely think there’s going to be more camping out trips for me in the future. ”
“The stars were so beautiful, plus sleep was pretty good for my first night in a tent, ” added McPherson, who said the overall experience left her with more confidence.
“I’m not scared, I am safe. I don’t feel worried. I felt like I found a piece of myself, ” she stated after the trip.