We are honored to announce our partnership with the Vamos Outdoor Project. Vamos is a Bellingham-based group that works to connect communities to environmental education opportunities through fundraising, outreach, and partnerships with local educational organizations. They primarily work with the Latinx and ELL community, focusing on groups that can find language and culture exchange opportunities to build a sense of place within their ecosystem.
We asked Whatcom Mountain Bike Coalition Education Coordinator Char Waller to give us more information about the project, why WMBC became involved, and how the community can help it grow.
Kona: How long has the program been around?
Vamos: Vamos Outdoors Project started April, 2018, so a little over a year and it has been very successful.
Kona: Can you give a little more information on the mountain biking program you have running with VOP?
Vamos: The Vamos bike program began as a pilot last fall. We took the kids out on 4 rides to see how things could shake out with this group. At the end of the pilot program, both Andy Basabe, founder of Vamos Outdoor Project, and I felt it was definitely worth building into a full-fledged program. We received positive feedback from the community, WMBC board, Vamos board, and the kids. Receiving grants from Kona, Phillips 66 and several others in our community allowed us to move forward and acquire a fleet of bikes so that we could provide the youth with proper equipment, thereby creating a positive experience for them.
The program I have created is based on mountain biking, with an additional 1/4 time component of service learning/trail building included. There are certainly cultural differences and language barriers that have been a factor, but as the weeks have passed, our group has formed into a well-bonded rhythm.
Kona: What are the ultimate goals of the bike program?
Vamos: My ultimate goal is to get youth at risk and underserved youth in our community engaged in healthy outlets with the hope that they can make better choices in their lives and be good citizens as a result, and to create a trail building and mountain bike culture in Bellingham that these youth are motivated and excited to be involved in. We have the perfect opportunity to offer youth in our community a healthy and physically challenging sport that also has the right amount of adrenaline, self awareness, fun, fitness and “cool” factor.
Kona: What is the best way for the community to get involved with Vamos?
Vamos: From the mountain bike side of this question, committed volunteers that can safely ride a mountain bike are welcome, even if they haven’t gone through our Ride Leader Cert. class, and especially if they speak Spanish. All they need to do is contact me at email@example.com and I can get them set up to best fit their specific goals/ skill set and proper training. There are typically 4 + ride leaders on each of the rides.