by Alivia Acosta, ATC National Service Coordinator

Communities of Action: Affinity Groups

Mustering the courage to explore new places or start new hobbies can be challenging, especially when feelings of fear or doubt begin to bubble over as you calculate the odds of facing a group where your personal identity/background is a complete outlier from the rest of the group. Because individuals carry fear of the new or doubts about their own abilities, communities of action that are centered on like-identities can help offer opportunities for growth.

Picking up a Pulaski and walking down a wooded path does not come naturally to most people. Even though providing supportive and welcoming volunteer opportunities is the number one priority of any volunteer organization, working with and through affinity groups to accomplish this goal has only recently become a resource on the Appalachian Trail (A.T.). Businesses and corporations have been known to provide opportunities similar to that of affinity groups in the form of Employee Resource Groups (ERG’s) or Business Resource Groups (BRG’s).

An affinity group is defined as a group of people gathered through a shared interest or common goal. Affinity groups most often have a component of justice involved in their goal and they are typically formed around constructs of identity such as, race, gender identity, class, etc. The purpose of affinity groups is to provide individuals of minority identities the opportunity to gather in a communal space that can feel comforting to them.

Wild East Women: Their Journey

What began as a web forum geared towards supporting women in the outdoors (specifically on the A.T.), has now transformed into a community of action-oriented trail stewards known as the Wild East Women (WEW). WEW is an Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) and Florida Trail Association affinity group inspiring women to engage with public lands and trails as adventurers, stewards, and leaders.

For WEW, fostering inspiration can take the form of:

  • Partnering with A.T. maintaining clubs and local organizations in the hosting of worktrips exclusively for self-identifying women and allies.
  • Featuring interviews with women who are involved with the A.T. in a multitude of ways.
  • Providing tips and strategies for outdoor adventures.
  • Helping women get involved with hikes and worktrips along the A.T. corridor.

Here is how you can get involved: