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by Hedi Charde
Awarded every two years by the Concord Carlisle Human Rights Council (CCHRC), the Climate for Freedom Award is presented to a local organization that works to foster a climate of freedom in its work and mission. This year’s recipient is The Nature Connection of Concord. Past recipients include Gaining Ground, Communities for Restorative Justice, Open Table, PFLAG and Minuteman Arc, among others.

The Nature Connection, formerly known as Animals As Intermediaries, brings animal and nature programs to people with limited access to the natural world. Founded in 1983, the organization connects individuals with nature’s capacity to heal, teach, and create joy. “Our mission is to support the human spirit by offering and building connections between people and the natural world,” says Executive Director Sophie Wadsworth. The Nature Connection serves at-risk youth, people with disabilities and elders, visiting each site bi-weekly or monthly. Nursing homes, hospitals, special needs facilities, at-risk programs and more have all been touched by the work of this important organization.

“We want all people to experience the simple joys of nature, and some people don’t have that opportunity,” explains Wadsworth. “Bringing nature to those who don’t have easy access encourages curiosity and a sense of wonder about the world, making them more engaged with each other and their community.”

Locally, JRI/Walden Street School, the Memory Care Program at Concord Park and the Day Rehabilitation Program at Minute man Arc are just some of the beneficiaries of The Nature’s Connections work. Every Nature Connection program delivered is a holistic session, combining personal interaction with natural materials such as plants, flowers, sand, snow, and animals, along with storytelling, crafts, music or sounds of nature. Each session is lead by a Nature Connection staff member and a trained community volunteer. Wadsworth noted that the volunteers are the heart of the organization. “Volunteers help offer these transformative experiences, and it is through them that the magic happens,” she says. “And interacting first hand with an elderly patient or an at-risk youth, hearing their stories and watching them come out of their shell, this helps us to bridge the gap between populations.”

Since its founding in 1983, The Nature Connection has provided over 15,000 contacts with at-risk youth, elders and people with disabilities in the Greater Boston area. Some client sites have with been with them for over 25 years, building lasting connections. The Nature Connection has also shared its work with more than 20,000 individuals, nationally and internationally, through its award-winning book, Bring Me the Ocean.

Please join us as we honor The Nature Connection at the Annual Human Rights Breakfast on Monday, December 5 at 730AM at the Trinitarian Congregational Church in Concord.