City Girl in Nature

Kwesia is a young changemaker and the creator of the video series City Girl in Nature - on a mission to engage young people from disadvantaged communities living in inner cities to connect with nature. Growing up in Deptford, South East London, an area where people have often been neglected, excluded, and marginalised, Kwesia experienced family trauma and homelessness when she was 17, while struggling with her mental health and well-being.

After joining a life changing expedition by the British Exploring Society to the Peruvian Amazon Rainforest in 2018, where she spent three weeks in a remote part of the jungle learning to live in the outdoors, Kwesia decided to create City Girl in Nature, as a way to give back to her community. Kwesia is now on a mission to share her love for the outdoors and connect with other young people, who are nature-deprived and excluded from such experiences, and support them on their own pathways to healing and self-discovery.

Describe the nature around you?

I view Nature to be all around us and even within. When answering the questions I was indoors. I have some pine cones, numerous plants around my house, birds that fly past the window and most importantly oxygen allowing me to breathe.

What lessons have you learned from nature?

I have learnt that we ARE nature! We are entangled. And we coexist. We have seasons. We are born. We grow. We evolve. As Nature does, we do. I have learnt that the more we reconnect with nature, the more alive we can become.

You took part in a British Exploring Society’s expedition to the Peruvian Amazon Rainforest where you camped in the jungle for three weeks. How has this experience influenced your connection to nature?

At my lowest, I received what could be regarded as a gift and a blessing. An opportunity to be part of a British Exploring Society’s expedition to the Peruvian Amazon rainforest. I spent three weeks in a remote part of the jungle, with no phone or contact with the outside world, with a group of people that I barely knew.

This, in many ways, was a life-changing experience for me. I experienced the beauty of nature, where there was no judgement, just life teaming with energy and opportunity. And bonds of friendship and loyalty with strangers who had to discover ways to live and work together in order to be successful. On my return I started to think about connecting with other people, particularly with young people like myself, some of whom have never had the opportunity to experience anything other than poverty and hardship. I wanted to explore if a connection with nature, could touch them in a similar way.

This led to the start of City Girl in Nature, as a way to give back to my community. To share my love and passion for the outdoors, and belief that everybody should have the chance to be healed, to be nourished, and to life with abundance.

How can nature heal ourselves and our communities?

We are often locked in our rooms and houses, sitting on our chairs and sofas, isolated from each other, increasingly looking at screens, with little natural light. This immobility and disconnection impacts on both our physical and mental health. Being outdoors, in nature, we begin to reconnect with our true selves. No longer alone, we begin to reconnect with life beyond our own, with light, and sound, and breath. The evidence is overwhelming that this is good for our health and wellbeing.

How can we begin to think more collectively?

By having the conversations. We are distracted, and often overwhelmed. And for many, struggling with day-to-day challenges and concerns, we don’t often talk to each other about the things that we have in common, and the actions we must take together to build better worlds. In the outdoors and nature worlds, like in many other fields, there are not too many role models for black and minority communities. So changing this, and emerging more diverse leaders, will enable us to build more collective movements for change.

Name a TV series, film, podcast, or documentary that blew your mind?

Planet Earth on the BBC with David Attenborough. And Planet Earth II that followed. I was captivated by this series, including its episodes on jungles; never thinking that I would one day be camping in the great Amazon rainforest. And The National Geographic Series, ‘One Strange Rock’ on how life survives and thrives on Earth, told with the help of real-life astronauts bringing their unique off-planet perspectives - how cool is that! Also from National Geographic, ‘Welcome to Earth’ with the actor Will Smith visiting wild and remote places. One of his guides, in Iceland, is the explorer Dwayne Field, who is someone that I am truly inspired by.

Which rituals do you practice to keep you grounded and connected to the outer world?

Some of the things I do to stay grounded is to literally go outside and ground (taking my shoes off, placing bare feet on the earth, or simply just sitting). I often take long and silent walks and open my eyes and ears and nose to the sights, sounds, and smells of mother nature, from our trees and plants to our birds and insects, appreciating their mystery and beauty.

Could you suggest someone else or other organisations you admire that we could approach for #TheNatureKind?

The role models that I admire and follow include Steppers UK, Black Girls Hike, Flock Together, Black Geographers, Muslim Hikers, Dwayne Fields & David Lindo.

To learn more about Kwesia and City Girl in Nature subscribe to her YouTube channel and follow on Instagram at @CityGirlinNature and Twitter @CityGirlNature.

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