This weekend, while the rest of us are floating rivers and having barbeques, 100 happy women will gather together in the mountains 13 miles west of Sisters. Their goal: learn how to change the world.
At the second annual Camp Catalyst retreat, held at the Caldera Arts Center, women and girls spend three days making art, practicing yoga and attending leadership workshops. The weekend is designed to spur a wave of change, at least in Central Oregon.“At Camp Catalyst we try to give women tools to figure what their sense of purpose is, what passion they may…be cultivating, and how to put it into service,” said Camp Catalyst Founder Amanda Stuermer, who runs Shine Global, the Bend nonprofit behind the retreat.
Participant Kelly Pofahl attended the first Camp Catalyst last year and she’ll be back again this weekend. She’s an assistant professor at Central Oregon Community College and a Girl Scout troop leader, but she wants to do more.
“I got to this point a year ago where I felt like I was in this position to be a really positive role model in so many lives and I just didn’t know what direction to go in,” said Pofahl. “I just wanted to have some time and space to reflect on those things.”
Stuermer said Pofahl’s dilemma is not unique—many women struggle with how to balance their personal lives while giving back to their communities.
“They are ready to make an impact, but they are not sure how to start,” said Stuermer. “We show women that there are many ways to be of service.”
The weekend is packed with some pretty cool things. Musician Shireen Amini, who led a call and response performance for TEDxBend in April, will perform her lady-power, funky jazz anthems before dinner on Friday night.
Self-proclaimed “musical priestess” Suzanne Sterling, will lead a singing and chanting session entitled, “Sing Yourself Awake” that is intended to get women comfortable with expressing their voices—not their sopranos—but their personal opinions.
After all that workshopping, there is free time to get yourself a henna tattoo, hike the surrounding wilderness, or sip tea and reflect on the day.
At night they’ll all retire to teepees. Yes, you read that right.
“I was really excited about sleeping in the teepee, it added to the excitement of being in the woods,” said Nicole Baumann, 34, who helps organize Camp Catalyst, reflecting on last year’s retreat.
The event may seem touchy-feely, but the bonds formed at Camp Catalyst will become the foundation for all kinds of programs you’ll see in Central Oregon over the next year. For instance, both Pofahl and Baumann arrived alone last year. But Pofahl made at least two-dozen connections with other motivated women. Baumann came back as an organizer this year.
“To empower women globally, we have to start individually,” says Stuermer. “We have to start right here in Bend, Oregon, getting women to realize their own potential for change, whether in their personal lives or local community, however it looks for them.”
Photo taken by Camp Catalyst