Pacific Quest Wilderness Therapy program recently hosted two key leaders from the Horticultural Therapy Association of Victoria, Australia. Karen and Paul Delamotte joined Pacific Quest’s Land Supervisor Travis Slagle for an interactive tour of the 8 acre wilderness program in Hawaii that has provided life changing experiences for hundreds of youth from around the world. The reason for Karen and Paul Delamotte’s visit to Pacific Quest was to learn more about PQ’s focus on gardening and community stewardship as a key component of mental health service for adolescents and young adults. Furthermore, the visitors expressed their intention to feature Pacific Quest in an upcoming presentation at the Horticultural Therapy Association of Victoria Conference in November 2012.
As a member of the Hawaii Organic Farmers Association, and the American Horticultural Therapy Association, Pacific Quest utilizes garden based activities to engage students in new perspectives on personal responsibility, healthy relationships, and sustainable life skills. During their tour of Pacific Quest’s therapeutic gardens, the visitors observed students planting carrots, and preparing a colorful salad of shredded beets and fresh kale harvested from their own organic garden. One student was asked, “what is something that working in a garden has taught you?” The student responded, “I never knew how resilient plants can be, and I guess the same is true about myself.”
After their tour of the garden, the Delamottes sat down with Pacific Quest’s Land Supervisor to discuss how students contribute to the local community. Travis explained that students learn first hand the value of community stewardship by not just planting food for themselves, but by growing food for a weekly farmers market and donating their proceeds to charities that serve children in the local community. In many ways, Pacific Quest is redefining the scope and practice of traditional wilderness therapy by combining the best practices of outdoor therapeutic programming and nature-based therapy with the safety and oversight of residential treatment. Travis stated, “Students at PQ learn to care for a garden as they would care for themselves. One of the greatest joys of a farmer is to grow lots of healthy food, not just for yourself, but to provide for a community. Students at PQ get to experience this way of thinking and doing on a daily basis.” Travis concluded, “I believe this is a therapeutic experience like no other.” Both Karen and Paul shared their gratitude for the opportunity to observe a snapshot of life in the Pacific Quest garden. The visitors offered many praises for the work Pacific Quest is doing to provide innovative mental health services for struggling teens and families from around the world.