Imagine living in the Pacific Northwest, but never experiencing the incredible outdoors that surround us! Unfortunately, that is the reality for the single women and children we house and Hearth Homes. Often families living in poverty like those we house, are likely to live in neighborhoods with higher pollution, fewer green spaces, and higher crime (Kozol, 1995).
Over the last two years, staff and volunteers of Hearth Homes have worked tirelessly to transform the properties of our two houses to not only provide a safe, positive and secure environment, but one that invites families to engage with their outdoor surroundings. Green spaces have been shown to tremendously impact a child’s well being by encouraging healthy physical activity and increasing their ability to self-regulate and cope with common stressors (Faber Taylor & Kuo). At Hearth Homes, children rush to our giant play set in the huge back yard, their mothers plant and maintain the 10 garden beds lining the back property, and all this is framed by the tall cedar fencing which blocks traffic on the busy Broadway Avenue, creating a stillness and safety for the back play areas. Now, thanks to Spokane Valley Kiwanis, we’ll be installing a sprinkler system to improve and maintain a lush lawn surrounding the large play area for all the children of Hearth Homes to safely run and roll around on.
All the children and mothers that come to Hearth Homes have encountered multiple Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) including poverty, homelessness, food insecurity, and physical and/or emotional abuse. These ACEs have been empirically shown to increase the likelihood of severe health risks, slow physical, cognitive and emotional development, and the results (social, emotional & cognitive impairment; health risks, early death) are devastating (Felitti et al). Creating green spaces and offering engaging outdoor experiences are just one of the many interventions Hearth Homes provides to foster growth and skill necessary to reduce and prevent further adverse experiences. Outdoor activities and wilderness activities have been shown to buffer stressful experiences, contribute to children’s development of self-worth and autonomy and even contribute to higher attention capacity. (Faber Taylor & Kuo).
Summertime is key season for exploring the outdoors, participating in sports and youth camps, and attending community events such as sporting games and outdoor festivals. Our desire is to see every child at Hearth Homes have the opportunity to participate in these activities. This June, we’re exited to partner once again with Peak 7 Adventures for a rafting trip on the Spokane River to challenge the families we serve in new, fun ways. We look forward to another “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” event, sponsored by Les Schwab and the Spokane Indians baseball team, and we are thrilled to have the opportunity to share these experiences with you!
If you would like to see children at Hearth Homes get the same opportunity as many of their peers, please consider sponsoring a sports camp: $150 sends a child to a sports camp this summer! This, like the experiences we’ve shared, is not just a week of fun: It invests in a child’s self worth which will help them rise above circumstances, make positive choices and resist the negative influences they’ve witnessed already in their short lives.
Faber Taylor, A. & Kuo, F.E. (2006). Is Contact With Nature Important for Healthy Child Development? State of Evidence. In C. Spencer & M Blades, (Eds.) Children and Their Environments. (pp. 124-140). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Felitti, V. J., et al. (1998). Relationship of Childhood Abuse and Household Dysfunction to Many of the Leading Causes of Death in Adults: The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 14(4), 245-258.
Kozol, J. (1995). Amazing Grace: Children’s Lives and the Conscience of a Nation. New York, NY. Crown Publishing.