Dustin Ratcliff is one of the founding member-owners of the Walk2Connect Cooperative. Through his involvement with Walk2Connect, he has deepened his relationships with multiple community groups and organizations, including Street Fraternity, a local non-profit organization for refugee and immigrant young men, ages 14-25. Read more about his experience on Walk2Connect Stories.
For me, the heart of Walk2Connect is relationship. Our cooperative has provided a pathway for me to confidently walk into the unknown and deepen my relationship to others, to the environment, to my community, and to myself. Through this work, I have gotten to know people who may not be like me in any familiar sense, and I have been able to go into places that I previously only viewed through a car window. I used to know very little about my community, and now I feel more aware of and connected to those around me, too.
One of my favorite things about Walk2Connect is that we celebrate difference. We provide a safe place for people to learn from one another and care for one another on a human level. When people are moving together, shoulder-to-shoulder, there is an intrinsic “us/we” mentality that starts to develop. Despite preconceived judgements about age, race, ethnicity, gender, religious beliefs, political affiliation, sexual orientation, etc., a sense of tribe and community develops within the group. I see it happen every day. Our network of walkers, Walking Movement Leaders, Champions, member-owners, and community partners is comprised of amazing people who prove on a daily basis how walking brings us together.
I also love how the passion of an individual, or the mission of an organization, can be represented by a creative, connection-focused walking experience. I am interested in learning about different cultures. I lead a walk series in partnership with folks from the Middle East. I invite them to share stories about their culture with the rest of the group, then we share a meal with food from their country. I also love the outdoors and enjoy working with youth. So, I lead walks that allow children from the city to enjoy a beautiful trail in the mountains. All of our Walking Movement Leaders have passions of their own and are encouraged to lead walks that really celebrate that passion. It is beautiful to see the wide range of creativity that can be applied to a walk.
Ultimately, Walk2Connect has changed me. It has not only enriched my view on community, inclusiveness and equity, but it has provided me a place to develop a career doing the work that I love and deeply care about.
I love this organization and I truly feel lucky to be a part of it!