If you can’t bring the natural world to urban youth, than pack their bags and introduce them to an environment they’ve never known before, opening their eyes to an experience unimaginable to their everyday lives.That’s what photographer, writer and philanthropist Janice Belson has created first with Medicines Global (MG)- reaching out to the adventure traveler to give back to native peoples in far flung places such as Nepal and Sri Lanka, then with her offshoot of MG – Medicines Global Outdoor Youth Ambassadors (MGOYA). This wing offers inner city youth the chance to make a difference in humanitarian efforts around the world similar to the MG concept, while taking them out of their unstable environments and exposing them to national parks like Joshua Tree and most recently the windswept Channel Islands National Park.The 68-year-old Belson was severely injured on a movie set in 1997. She took the entire $180,000 settlement and launched Medicines Global. She’s convinced legions of travelers to contribute to her cause, and to date she has sent nearly $3 million in medical supplies worldwide to hospitals and village health outposts.On this particular trip Belson brought freshman students from Jordan High School in Los Angeles along with personnel from the LAPD to Santa Cruz Island, and teamed up with Paddle Sports of Santa Barbara for a day of paddling along the most bio-diverse islet off California. Most of the 14 students had never paddled in a kayak before, let alone been in the ocean.
“These kids come from neighborhoods riddled with drive by shootings,” said Belson. “I want these kids to touch the earth. That’s my dream.”In tandem kayaks guides from Paddle Sports led the flotilla of red boats along the sheer volcanic cliffs honeycombed with toothy grottos and slammed by pounding surf out of the northwest. Along the way they learned about bladder kelp, seals and sea lions, seabirds, the endemic island fox and the Chumash Indian culture.
“These kids are surrounded by concrete,” said Fraser Kersey, Managing Partner and a guide of Paddle Sports. “We wanted them to experience the ocean, the islands. It’s our goal to educate visitors about the islands.”For more information on Medicines Global visit www.medicinesglobal.org.To find out more about Paddle Sports go to www.kayaksb.com.