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 and Vamos Director Andy Basabe 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.
Larger goals include making traditionally white spaces appealing to Latinxs and people of color. Another goal of the program is that by bringing Latinx youth up to Galbraith, we are making present part of our community that isn’t seen in as many places. Connecting with WMBC and the mountain biking community, both very visible in Whatcom County, helps Vamos connect youth with other organizations.
Kona: What is the best way for the community to get involved with Vamos?
Vamos: The best way for the community to get involved with VAMOS is by connecting with us through our website, www.vamosoutdoorsproject.com, Instagram @Vamosoutdoorsproject, or at one of our community events. We are volunteer dependent, so making sure we have volunteers is a big priority for us. We would love to connect with more Latinx and English Language Learner folks on a volunteer level.