Earlier this month, Pussywillow Lotus Healing hosted a weekend camping retreat for BIPOC LGBTQIA+ folx at Jackson Lake Park in Canal Winchester. The local non-profit received funding support for the retreat from an Equitas Health Racial Justice Grant. Every year, Equitas Health’s Racial Advisory Council on Employee Equity (RACE) business resource group awards ten $2000 grants to non-profit organizations who promote racial justice and work to overcome racial health disparities in the communities we serve.
Angel Goode, a Prevention Specialist at Equitas Health, founded Pussywillow Lotus Healing in 2019. They envisioned the retreat as a chance for BIPOC LGBTQIA+ folx to come together in nature to get a break from the stigma and barriers they face in their everyday lives. The retreats also include mental health wellness and sexual health workshops.
That first year, there were 10 campers. In 2021, there were 20. When Pussywillow Lotus Healing hosted its third retreat earlier this month, there were 45 campers! “Every year, the numbers just keep growing,” said Goode. For next year’s retreat, they are hoping to partner with other organizations, so that they can welcome more campers and offer more workshops.
At this year’s retreat, campers enjoyed a wide range of activities. There was yoga and meditation in the woods and live music. There were also traditional camping activities like learning how to pitch a tent, sitting around a bonfire, or walking barefoot through a creek.
For many, this was their first time camping. As Goode explains, one of the biggest stereotypes within BIPOC communities is that “people of color do not camp.” This was also the first time that many of the campers had a safe space to talk about their gender identity and sexual orientation in a group of their peers. This year’s campers left the retreat restored by nature, empowered to take charge of their mental and sexual health, and strengthened by new bonds of friendship.
Equitas Health is truly grateful for the opportunity to support organizations like Pussywillow Lotus Healing. Their work to increase access to health and wellness education by increasing access to nature inspires our work to provide Care for All.