Sleeping bags, s’mores and the great outdoors : the role of nature-based leisure in refugee integration in Canada
This study investigates the potential impact of nature-based leisure on the acculturation strategies of refugees in Canada, with a focus on the integration mode, and in particular, the inclination to participate fully in the larger society. The study is underpinned by Berry’s (1997) acculturation theory, which posits the integration mode as the least stressful acculturation strategy for newcomers in multicultural countries. Four refugees from Africa and the Middle East participated: two women with children, and two single men. Participants’ ages ranged from 20 to 36 years. Semi-structured interviews and photovoice were used to explore refugees’ experience of a large-group winter camping experience at Long Lake Outdoor Centre in Alberta, and how it might provoke integration. Nature’s vaunted ameliorative and restorative impacts (Kaplan, 1995) and nature-based leisure’s positive impacts (Knopf, 1987) were evident in refugees’ responses to their experience. Participants appreciated the opportunity to be away from the city (Kaplan, 1995), and to share the experience of group leisure with family and friends (Knopf, 1987). Refugees felt safe and cared for because of the presence of parks and social services staff members, pointing to the role of creating a welcoming environment and social acceptance for refugees in society generally, in order to foster integration (Berry, 1997; Berry et al., 2002). In addition, helping refugees overcome constraints to leisure (Crawford & Godbey, 1987, as cited in Kleiber, Walker & Mannell, 2011) and mental health problems (Ellis et al., 2014; Fazel et al., 2005), are important to prevent separation and marginalization (Berry, 1997) as acculturative strategies. Finally, nature-based leisure was found to strengthen the innate desire within the individual to integrate.
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