I am a tree – a feeling of being held, relaxed, at ease, nourished, and comforted when with a tree.

Core members of Hong Kong Federation of Women’s Centres attend a nature connection workshop.

Listening to Ourselves

In the overnight Self-Care in Nature course, participants open their senses and connect with trees, waters, and their inner selves, experiencing nature’s gentle power of love. One participant shared, “I will never forget the moment when I set eyes on the mountains afar; my inner child was awakened.” Another: “As I practised connecting with the great camphor tree in the village, I experienced ‘oneness’ for the first time in my life – being one with the tree, the birds, and everything else!”

Nature-Well-Being, PCD’s partner, has been offering this course since 2022 in Tai Po–at a nature reserve, a rural village, and the University of Hong Kong Kadoorie Agricultural Research Centre near Tai Mo Shan, Hong Kong’s highest mountain. Yet for more than a decade, founder Pin-Han Wang had already been exploring holistic wellbeing and healing. She often witnessed NGO workers and other carers prioritising    the wellbeing of the people they serve and neglecting their own needs; thus, she, Amanda Yik and Dr. Claire Elouard specifically designed the Self-Care in Nature course to help carers replenish their inner strength. Key components of the course are mindfulness, natural healing,and forest bathing. In one course with 17 participants–mostly NGO workers, social workers, and holistic healers–participants said they entered “a process of self-care and healing” as they connected with nature; they “saw the world from others’ eyes” as   they connected with each other; and, most importantly, that they felt “spiritually nourished and empowered to face life challenges.”

Participants connect with trees through touch and all the senses.

Transformative Connections

Nourishment and healing have been significant for staff, members, and volunteers of the Hong Kong Federation of Women’s Centres (Women’s Centres). Established in 1981,the Women’s Centres advocates   gender equality and provides support and advice to a range of women. Many core members have overcome hardship and are now in a position to guide others facing similar predicaments, while others have found themselves in a state of burnout after supporting and caring for women for years, if not decades.

In 2020, PCD supported eight staff to join the workshop Healing Powers of Nature, contemplating and listening to their inner voices in nature. The women also embarked on the Nourishing Women and Deepening Gender Perspective Project, also designed by Pin-Han Wang, Amanda Yik, and Dr. Claire Elouard. Through storytelling, natural healing, and non-violent communication, participants reflected on their multiple roles as women, colleagues, and social change-makers, and how the roles shape their identity in relation to their cause.

Some Women’s Centres staff in the workshop felt similar to nature–being controlled and exploited, and at the same time having the power to nourish oneself and others. Other staff saw everyone as part of nature and interconnected–as individuals, an organisation, service users, and staff. They felt that the women they serve are not passively receiving help, but actively influencing each other. Together, these realisations inspired staff to approach gender issues in new ways.

Long-serving volunteers had a special opportunity to share their life stories in an illustrated book. In the process, they changed from a giver to receiver as they connected with their needs and experienced being listened to and accepted, unconditionally. More importantly, as they reviewed life milestones and contemplated significant times at the Women’s Centres,they gained rich insight into their motivations, aspirations, and directions for self-development.

These courses and workshops provide different learning pathways and experiences. Instead of focusing on the practical aspects of work, attention is given to connecting with and nourishing oneself in nature, and relating to one another at deeper levels.