This month five Wild Gift fellows traveled to the Wood River Valley to embark on a three-week trek in the Boulder and White Clouds wilderness areas, followed by 12 months of training and professional development as they grow their ventures.
Wild Gift environmental entrepreneurs work in the fields of education, sustainable agriculture, affordable housing, energy innovation, public policy and environmental stewardship. The nonprofit organization provides a free year-long program to a select few that combines extended wilderness experiences with leadership training, mentoring and fundraising support.
The programs take place during backcountry activities intended to foster leadership and business skills while building a lifelong network of professional support.
According to a press release, former Wild Gift fellows (of 60 total) have developed more than 1 million square feet of energy-efficient real estate, protected more than 12,000 square miles of Canadian wilderness and generated income for West African women’s co-ops through the sale of moringa-based plant products.
The 2019-20 fellows are Alex Bailey, founder of Black Outside, which provides transformative outdoor experiences to students of color across central Texas; Anderson Barkow, co-founder of BoxPower, which provides solar mini grid kits as an alternative to diesel generators; Nicole Chatterson, founder of Zero Waste O’ahu, which seeks to cultivate a waste-free future in Hawaii through community engagement, policy support and zero-waste demonstration projects; Aaron Nesser, co-founder of AlgiKnit, which develops algae-derived yarns for sustainable textiles; and Ki’Amber Thompson, founder of Bloom Project, which developed an “outdoor-healing justice program” in San Antonio, Texas, for low-income youths of color of incarcerated parents or caregivers.
Idaho-based Bob Jonas envisioned and founded Wild Gift in 2003. The organization is now directed by an alumni board and partners with Sun Valley Guides and Middle Fork River Expeditions to deliver its wilderness programming.