For people with varying levels of ability, getting out in nature is not only liberating, it gives them the opportunity to connect as a community.

When COVID-19 restrictions forced “Power to Be” to cancel face-to-face programs at its Prospect Lake property, the non-profit agency that supports people with living with disabilities or other barriers to getting out in nature moved its programs from outdoors to indoors.

By offering a virtual experience, the group hopes to keep its participants engaged with nature when they are not comfortable going out due to the pandemic.

“We have some online drop-in programs in our open adventure programs and our wilderness school,” said Power to Be open adventures lead Em MacFarland Oliemans. “The programs help people feel really connected at time when they may be feeling isolated.”

The organization provides virtual tours of local parks, such as Francis King Park, as well as fun activities like nature bingo. By providing fun facts about the ecosystems, animals and plants on Vancouver Island, Power to Be hopes to keep participants in touch with nature and each other.

“It’s helped folks stay connected and people really look forward to that hour once a week,” said MacFarland Oliemans. “With the open adventure crew, I’d say we have gotten four or five regulars and they’ve developed a really good rapport as a group and I feel it has filled a need for a lot of people.”

MacFarland Oliemans says the online group meet-ups have given participants an opportunity to see people they are familiar with at time when they may not feel safe going out. She says they encourage people who are comfortable going out to explore nature in their own neighbourhood.

“We are encouraging folks to get outside in a safe way to make them feel connected to nature,” said MacFarland Oliemans. “For some people, it’s not an option, so for them we ask ‘what’s outside your window and what can you look at and really engage with in nature?’”

Power to Be hopes that by offering online programs, it will keep participants connected as a community and with nature.

For information on the virtual nature programs, visit the “Power to Be” website.