On a recent evening in early Spring, two Canal Alliance staff members and a group of young women, newly arrived immigrants to Marin County, made their way to The Gravity Vault, an indoor climbing gym in San Rafael, for an outing of fun and connection.
Guided by Misha Kuklin, Gravity Vault’s Director of Youth, the young people started with basic climbing techniques, specifically bouldering: using whole-body strength, the core and legs, without putting all the pressure on the upper body. There were nerves at first then one young woman volunteered to climb and others followed.
Once everyone climbed the first boulder, they were given the choice to move to a second or try rope climbing section. Enthusiastically, the young people were ready to learn to climb with ropes!
“I am thrilled to see their growth in such a short amount of time,” reflected Misha Kuklin. “It was the first time for so many of them, and their confidence increased through the class.”
While climbing instructors shared techniques in English, Canal Alliance’s Valentina Bravo and Andrea Rivas Iraheta provided Spanish translation and encouragement to the young climbers. Valentina and Andrea are case managers with the Opportunities for Youth (OFY) program, which supports unaccompanied youth who arrive in the country after escaping poverty and violence in their home countries.
“Our goal today is to expose our newcomers to a new experience – something enjoyable that may also help to alleviate stress,” explains case manager Valentina Bravo. “We’re providing opportunities to these young people so they realize, ‘oh it’s not that bad to be here.’
“Right now, the girls are in the midst of such a huge transition.”
By the end of the field trip, the young people seemed proud, confident, tired and all smiles. The opportunity is possible thanks to the generosity of The Gravity Vault, Indoor Rock Gym. The business will host a second field trip for students in the University Prep program and the young people from OFY will return for more climbing instruction.