Epic Opportunities recently provided some food for thought for both the people it serves as well as employees of the not-for-profit agency.
On Aug. 24, the organization hosted a wild edibles nature walk at FortWhyte Alive on McCreary Road in south Winnipeg. The walk was organized by members of the Epic Opportunities Spirit Committee, one of the three groups that comprise the agency’s Holistic Wellness Committee.
Spirit Committee member Thomas Kaethler says the overall aim of the group is to help people served by Epic Opportunities as well those employed by the agency feel more connected to the community they are a part of.
“Nowadays it’s very easy to feel very disconnected from the world around you,” says Kaethler, a Disability Support Worker with Epic Opportunities. “We want to give everybody a chance to connect with themselves and with whatever else is out there.”
That sense of disconnectedness is what inspired Kaethler to come up with the idea for the wild edibles walk. While everyone knows where they can purchase food, few people have a clear understanding of exactly where that food comes from, he says.
“I often feel very disconnected from the food I eat. I’m trying to eat food that I have a close relationship to and understand where it comes from. I feel a sense of personal accomplishment when I can find my own food,” he says, adding he hopes the recent walk helps empower participants to make more informed choices when it comes to choosing the food they eat and where they can obtain it.
Eighteen people registered to take part in last month’s nature walk. Kaethler and the person he supports acted as hosts for the evening while a guide from Fort Whyte Alive conducted a walking tour.
Participants spent about two hours connecting with plant life in the forested area and learning how they can feed themselves with plants that grow in the region. Special Projects Interpreter Barrett Miller shared his expertise on everything from which plants are tasty and safe to eat (wild plums, rose hips, wild cranberries and even dandelions) to those that should be avoided (poison ivy and hawthorn).
Kaethler says he was pleased with the level of interest in the event and hopes it will help to generate further interest in future events the Spirit Committee is planning.
The Holistic Wellness Committee was formed earlier this year following the development of a five-year strategic plan for Epic Opportunities. A big part of that plan is promoting holistic wellness that focuses on body, mind and spirit.
Spirit Committee member Michelle Alvarado says one of the challenges for her and fellow committee members was coming up with ideas on how to help people connect with the community that are accessible. While spirituality will be part of the discussion, it is just one the subjects the committee will be addressing.
“It’s not just about church. It’s all about how you can feel spiritually connected to something. People can be spiritually connected in a lot of different ways, whether it’s nature or animals or music,” she says.
“Our hope is just to get people more connected with relationships with the people and the world around them and feel more connected to their community. It’s all about relationships.”
The Spirit Committee has already begun planning several other future events. In October it will host an equine, or horse, therapy session to promote emotional growth and foster emotional connections with the animals. Committee members are looking at hosting a winter music event, a spring gardening session and an interactive theatre event.
Kaethler says his hope is that even though not everyone will be able to attend every event those who do will be able to pass on the knowledge they gain to people they work with and interact with on a daily basis.