Caretakers

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Aunties and Care-Takers

Sarai Shapiro: Lead Auntie, Founder and Care-Taker

Sarai has been a part of creating programs and serving girls in wilderness rites-of-passage groups since 2007. She has founded and run or co-run girls’ groups and coming of age based programs individually and for organizations such as the ALEPH Kallah, Wilderness Torah, Wild Earth and the Vermont Wilderness School. She has trained in naturalist skills, mentoring, and cultural regeneration through the 8 shields cultural mentoring model, has a certificate in clinical herbalism from the California School of Herbal Studies, trained in the Girls Leadership model for Conflict Resolution,  Non-Violent Communication, energy psychology, and other embodiment practices, all of which inform the work of Gaia Girls Passages. She has carried the question for many years of “What do girls need to grow into healthy womanhood?”  Through her education, research, and years of working with girls she has found many answers to that question that are now woven into the beautiful web of what is today Gaia Girls Passages.

Jenya Schneider: Lead Auntie and Back Country Manager

Jenya is an avid student of Nature. Whether she is foraging foods and medicines, designing and tending to permaculture gardens, or being a doula to mothers bringing new life into the world, she is devoted to remembering to read the languages of Nature and reincorporate that wisdom into every child’s life. She honed her skills at Headwaters Outdoor School in Mount Shasta, CA, and currently works as an instructor at TrackersEarth.

Alisa Healy: Program Manager & Administrator

Alisa has worked closely with youth as a wilderness therapist and environmental educator for over 7 years. She recently completed a year of work with the Office of Sustainability at Alameda County, where she designed curriculum and managed the marketing and outreach for the Green Child Care Program, which provides recycling and composting education to preschool staff and students. Alisa’s motivation to promote zero waste comes from her respect for nature. She is deeply inspired by the beauty and wisdom of the wild and is constantly creating music and poetry about the natural world. She is a singer/songwriter, harpist, and drummer and regularly performs with her band, Child of the Mountain. Alisa is thrilled to be joining Gaia Girls Passages and hopes to help the program grow and thrive.

Katherine Piedra:  Auntie, Nature-based Mentor

Katherine has worked with children in many capacities from doula support to caregiving to adventure trips in the woods. In 2013, she participated in an apprenticeship in village building and naturalist skills with the Wilderness Awareness School in the Pacific Northwest. Her education at WAS has inspired the way she engages with young people and their natural curiosity for interacting with the cycles of the earth. She believes in asking deeper questions alongside youth, active listening, and leaving room for mystery. Katherine is an Aztec danzante and is committed to remembering/reclaiming her indigenous traditions in this socio-political landscape of colonialism and erasure. Katherine is also a student of the plants and herbal medicine and always carries a song in her heart.

Chiara Symens-Bucher:  Auntie, Nature-based Mentor

Chiara loves the natural world and opportunities to explore and connect outdoors with children. She is a graduate of the Weaving Earth Immersion Program and has spent the last 4 years deeply engaged in the nature-connection community in Sonoma County. Chiara taught in play-based and nature-based preschools and mentored in afterschool programs. She is very committed to working with girls and young women by helping them to remember that they are inherently good and belong in the world. She believes that the practices of nature connection empower us as humans to know who we are, where we come from, and what gifts we have to offer. Chiara lives at Canticle Farm in Oakland, a community experimenting at the intersection of social justice-based, faith-based, and Earth-based nonviolent activism.

Natasha Lowery:  Auntie, Nature-based Mentor

Natasha is passionate about reconnecting with nature and in empowering girls and young women to engage with the natural world. She has worked with children in natural spaces and carries her mothers’ artistic legacy through the medium of field journaling and sketching. She is learning to see the wild through the lens of medicinal and edible plants, and hopes to discover more about her Filipina heritage.

Kelsey Gustafson:  Intern Auntie, Nature-based Mentor

Kelsey has been a yoga teacher and embodiment guide for over a decade, creating spaces for people to reconnect with their inner and outer nature. In a world of normalized dissociation, Kelsey is passionate about helping folks reconnect to self, each other and the larger web of life. Born and raised in Berkeley, Kelsey spent her childhood summers near Yosemite and later worked as a counselor at the Berkeley Tuolumne Family Camp where she fell in love with barefoot days and starry nights. Recently, she has integrated her love of nature into her work as a yoga teacher, guiding backpacking and yoga retreats where she brings students from urban areas into the wilderness. A lifelong artist, Kelsey has a creative spirit and loves to sing, paint, dance and encourage expression in all ways. In addition to her work with Gaia Girls, Kelsey is a certified Expressive Arts Facilitator and Trauma Center Trauma Sensitive Yoga Facilitator and is pursuing a Masters degree in Depth Psychology at Sonoma State University.

Jen Myzel:  Auntie, Nature-based Mentor

Jen is a passionate singer-songwriter, elementary school music teacher, and nature-based mentor.  She always had a special connection with animals, and began to fully come home to the Earth during college in 2009. After studying abroad at Findhorn Ecovillage, she co-founded and directed a free-of-charge Urban Farm Camp for inner-city youth in St. Louis, MO called Camp Kumquat. She has since studied various healing modalities including herbal medicine, nutrition, and energy medicine, and she is also a passionate student of Bay Area elder and activist, Joanna Macy and facilitator of the Work that Reconnects, practices to help us stay awake during turbulent times. She has utilized music for healing and activism over the last nine years.  To listen to her music, visit www.jenmyzel.net

Elizabeth Gould: Auntie, Menstrual education

Elizabeth Gould is the Executive Director of the Red Web Foundation, an organization dedicated to menstrual education for girls and women.  She is also involved with a community of women initiating girls into their young womanhood in New Zealand.  She is the  mother of two teenage girls and does moon-education with our girls and co-facilitates some of the mama bear circles.

Meghan Walla-Murphey: Auntie, Consultant, Tracking and Nature Conservation

Megan is a conservationist, teacher, and expert animal tracker.  She runs a conference each year in Sonoma county that creates a culture for women to re-learn the ancient art of animal tracking and deepen their knowledge of place.  She has joined the girls for camp and is an ongoing consultant and supporter.

Erika Gagnon: Auntie, Ceremonial Arts

Erika is a Ceremonial Leader and visual artist. She leads sweat lodges and sacred pipe ceremonies with our moms and older girls and holds a deep understanding of  initiation, ceremony and various healing modalities from her own participation and education over the last 20 years.

Maria Yraceburu: Auntie, Native American Ceremonialist

Maria Yraceburu is a co-founder of Yraceburu EarthWisdom and trained as a Native American ceremonialist, idealist and time charter. She has perpetuated the earth tradition ways of evolution since 1964. She shares an intricate system of earth wisdom and cross cultural teaching of her extended family system in an equilateral and respectful manner. Her book Prophetic Voices of the Sisters of Honua is proof of her purpose. Other books include: Essays on Identity, Words of Power, Prayers and Meditations of the Quero Apache, and Legends and Prophecies of the Quero Apache.

Elana Auerbach: Auntie, Goddess Archetypes

Elana has been leading circles for women for over 13 years. She is an Ordained 13 Moon Priestess and certified focalizer for the 13 Moon Mystery School. Elana teaches Dharma School for children at the Bay Zen Center, has a 7 year old son, and revels in tending the temple flame of the Berkeley Yurt Temple. Elana welcomes our girls to join her in the Yurt Temple for special Gaia Girls days.

About WPLMS

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Contact Information

Email: support@gaiagirlspassages.org

Phone: 510-508-7107

Facebook: www.facebook.com/gaiagirlspassages/

Most photography by Erika Gagnon

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