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BIPOC outdoor adventures club formed at Lakehead University

The student-run club is dedicated to making outdoor recreation activities more accessible and affordable for Black, Indigenous and other people of colour.
Lakehead University students participate in a 'Winter 101' workshop that was put on by the school's BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and other people of colour) outdoor adventures club in February.

THUNDER BAY – Coming to Canada as a refugee, there was a lot that Aseel Hashim had to learn about her new home.

One of those things was about outdoor activities, which she participated in through a program in Guelph that offered gear and went on excursions.

Upon arriving at Lakehead University for her studies in the master of public health program in 2023, she saw the need for a similar program in Thunder Bay.

“A lot of refugees, immigrants and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and other people of colour) don’t access outdoor recreation as much,” Hashim said.

“So, I did some research on that for a class project and I found that the main needs are accessibility in terms of finances, as well as overall knowledge. If you look at something like camping, that can be a high-cost event, especially if you haven’t done it and if you don’t have the gear for it.”

As a result of her research, Hashim sent an e-mail to Leigh Potvin, who is the director and assistant professor of the school of outdoor recreation, parks and tourism at Lakehead.

In the e-mail, Hashim had prepared a proposal and plan for a BIPOC outdoor adventures club and asked Potvin if she was interested in supporting the club.

“It’s not often that . . . I get an e-mail like that,” Potvin said. “It certainly lined up with the ways we want to engage people with recreation here at our school.

“We had some resources in the forms of our staff and students who could support the club, along with our equipment depot.”

The club – which is a collaboration between Hashim and the outdoor recreation department at Lakehead – also received a $5,500 grant from the Thunder Bay Community Foundation, which set them on their way.

“That was huge as it has allowed us to host events at no cost,” Hashim said.

While the abnormal winter conditions led to the cancellation of some of the planned outdoor excursions, the club was able to host a ‘Winter 101’ workshop where tips were shared on dressing for winter weather, building a fire and roasting marshmallows.

“We also took some of the students curling as well, which was a pretty neat thing as a lot of them had never experienced that before,” Hashim said.

“We’ve had a lot of interest in summer activities and we’ve got a lot of students who want to do sightseeing hikes to Mount McKay and Kakabeka Falls, along with canoeing and kayaking.”

The long-term goal for the club is to have it become a student-led organization with continued help from the outdoors program.

“I absolutely want this to keep going after I’m done studying here,” Hashim said.

“For me, I see this as the start of a great relationship where we can engage with folks who may not have gone camping with their family before in the summer but really want to try it out,” Potvin added.

More information on the BIPOC outdoor adventures club can be found by visiting the official Instagram page.

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