HomeTop StoriesNonprofit organizations give inner-city children the opportunity to experience the outdoors

Nonprofit organizations give inner-city children the opportunity to experience the outdoors

A former Oakland teacher is offering urban teens new experiences through nature.

Growing up in Mexico, Caesar Barragan spent weekends sleeping under the stars, hiking in the hills and soaking in the mist of the waters off the coast of Baja.

“The first time you put together a camping tent, it’s like you’re on another planet,” says Barragan.

A former public school teacher, Barragan turned his passion for the outdoors into a lifelong mission. He brings the joy of nature to children in inner-city Oakland, many of whom see more concrete than green in a day for most of their lives.

Barragan is executive director of Brothers on the Rise. It is a nonprofit organization that focuses on marginalized neighborhoods in Oakland.

“When they are outside, they forget their worries and problems. It gives them peace,” says Barragan.

Not only do reservations for some of the state’s idyllic and most sought-after campgrounds have to be booked six months in advance through a lottery-like system, there are other roadblocks.

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“There are obvious barriers such as money, equipment and transportation,” Barragan said.

The National Parks Service’s most recent survey found that only 13% of visitors in 2018 were Latino. A 2020 analysis from Conservation Science Partners found that 67% of Latinos live in an area with little natural resources, with little access to parks.

That’s why Barragan coordinates trips, hikes, kayaking and more for children and their families.

“All these activities together create a new mentality,” said Barragan.

He breaks barriers step by step and brings the joy of nature to some children who need it most.

“You feel less stressed than when you are in the city,” says program participant Angel Sevioa.

“It’s different because you have a relationship with the place, with each other and with yourself,” Barragan said.

He says it’s like being on another planet when there’s only sky above them.

National data shows that the Latino population is one of the fastest growing demographic groups in the United States, but among the most underrepresented in conservation, outdoor recreation and environmental education.

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