Ever since I was a child, I have loved spending time outdoors: playing in our family garden in a small village between Austrian mountains, roaming through the neighbouring hay meadows covered in beautiful flowers, butterflies, and all kinds of insects. I also enjoyed ‘helping’ in the vegetable garden, aka, sneaking in to grab a red tomato that was smiling at me and had to be eaten!
For me, nature has always been a space for adventure. I’ve enjoyed it through various sports activities like snowboarding and hiking in the mountains, and swimming in beautiful lakes and rivers. But it was more than that; it was a space to escape the stresses of everyday life, a place that allowed me to leave behind troubles I was facing and find peace – it has always been my favourite meeting place with God. I can think of no better place to roam and chat with my Creator, where even creation itself seems to speak to me of His character, ingenuity, and goodness.
The more I spent time with him outdoors, the clearer it became to me what a gift nature really is, and the desire to care for it and practically do things differently grew bit by bit. One of my latest and long-term adventures is figuring out how I can make a difference in the little garden I look after, with my friends and community, and in the work I do with A Rocha UK.
With the ongoing and escalating environmental crisis, we need people and organisations that practically make a difference and find positive solutions more than ever. We need more people to get inspired and fall in love with nature again because we will protect and fight for what we love.
A while back, I was very excited to discover that Adventure Plus, one of A Rocha UK’s Partners in Action, was running their sponsored ‘Witney to Westminster’ canoe challenge. I thought it would be the perfect opportunity for a real adventure whilst raising funds for both charities. A Rocha UK is a very practical charity that helps people make step-by-step changes and a real difference in protecting the environment for wildlife and people. Adventure Plus, in Oxfordshire, aims to inspire young people to reach their potential and get ready for the adventure of life through outdoor activities and reconnecting with nature in a fun and exciting way.
I signed up for the 127-mile canoe challenge, created my Just Giving page, and prepared to spend six days on the Thames! Getting in that boat on day one, I realised I did not fully appreciate how challenging but also fun these next few days were going to be.
I loved seeing all kinds of birds when I was paddling along the river: kingfishers, grey herons, mandarin, and tufted ducks. Cheeky mute swans, too, who would have loved a bite of our sandwiches.
Spending ‘wild’ time in nature often reminds me of other situations and teaches me small but important lessons. I had many moments that inspired me or simply made me smile. The first day of paddling was particularly tough as I had recently damaged my wrist in the weeks leading up to the challenge.
Paddling for 5 hours into a very strong headwind reminded me of many situations where storms are against us. Often we would like just to quit, let go, and let the wind take us wherever it goes. But this was not a time to give up! It was time to keep paddling because only then would the kayak team still have a pretty good chance to get to where we needed to get, a warm supper and space to rest.
Often we have to dig deep in challenging times, but when we work together and help each other out, there is almost always a way forward. I would never have made it alone with my damaged wrist, but I had a very gracious paddling friend in the canoe who was willing to paddle hard and give quite a bit of extra power. With a team that watched out for each other, being blessed by many churches and individuals providing a dry space to sleep, food, showers on the way, and supporters cheering us on and supporting our cause, we managed to do all 127 miles in good time.
The experience made me draw parallels between the environmental crises and biodiversity loss we face today. Alone it is too big, and we can feel like there is no point even trying. Still, I believe that if more and more people and organisations work together to protect and restore our planet, we can turn this boat around, and there is real hope for our common home.
It was a unique, challenging, and fun experience! If anyone wants to help by raising funds for charities making a real difference for people and nature, I really recommend that you find something that you enjoy, but that can inspire others to give money to a great cause.
This ‘Meet the Community’ article was written by Regina Ebner for the Wild Christian email, ‘Nature and wildness.’ Regina is our Partner in Action Coordinator. Follow her on instagram at @regina.ebner.
Support Regina’s fundraising efforts via Just Giving here.
Can you help A Rocha UK to continue to make a real difference in protecting the environment for the benefit of wildlife and people?
Raise some vital funds and make it fun! Head on over to our ‘fundraise for us’ webpage for inspiration and ideas: https://arocha.org.uk/get-involved/fundraise-for-us/