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August 15, 2013

Inner City Outings: Without Borders


When Andy Jenkins isn't at his job with the International Rescue Committee, he's volunteering as a trip leader for the Sierra Club's Inner City Outings programs in Tucson. Wearing both these hats allows him to bring with him kids from overseas to the country's most cherished outdoor places. Recently he brought two of these kids on Arizona Public Media to talk about ICO.

The two youth in the segment, Prayash Sangraula, originally from Nepal, and Asha Adam, from Sudan, shared their experience of seeing a side of the country that most visitors don't get to enjoy. Watch it here.

"In Nepal there are forests," said Prayash in the TV interview, "and they were kind of dangerous." After four years of living in the U.S., "Andy dropped in and that's when we started going hiking, and it's been pretty fun working with him."

"The kids did so well" on TV, Andy said afterward, "especially considering that English isn't their first language. I was really excited for them to get that experience."

Andy says he got two emails at IRC from people looking to get involved -- a direct result of their TV appearance.

"I was surprised by how many people watched the program," he said. "In the city, it's very popular. People routinely watch it for their local stories, so neighbors and co-workers came up to me afterward. Even a random person the day after came up to me and said, 'Hey, you were on TV last night, right?'"

Mt. Lemmon observatory

Andy became involved with ICO three years ago, shortly after moving to Tucson.

"A close friend of mine encouraged me because she knew I was passionate about the outdoors and youth and this would be a great way to meet new people in the city," he said. "My first experience was going to a monthly meeting and being surprised by the kindred spirit in the room. It was my first time being a part of a volunteer group of that nature. Hearing the trip reports of where they were going with students sold me immediately."


Among his favorite outdoor places for ICO are Mt. Lemmon in the Catalina Mountains and Tangque Verde Falls outside Tucson. Last year he won a scholarship that allowed him to take two students with him to California's Klamath National Forest, where they helped the local Sierra Club group restore trails.


"The most rewarding thing is seeing a child’s perception of their world change right before your eyes," he said. "When they learn about an insect or a weather system or why they should be careful with the disposing of their trash -- or touching a snake for the first time -- it's a new experience. It's something that most people take for granted, but you get to witness it while watching these kids.

"You can see when they touch a snake the electricity and excitement flow through them."

Boy and butterfly

Looking to get involved? Visit Inner City Outings!

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