Carmen Fung has been a young children educator for many years and that easy, fresh sparkling laughter speaks a lot about her. She has seen Hong Kong’s hard working culture taking a toll on nature connectedness, but after the pandemic she witnessed another level of burnout in teachers, parents and children.
She transitioned from a Master’s in Education to FTHub Certified Forest Bathing Guide and Forest Therapy Practitioner. She created Catch a Breath Wellbeing & Nature and is dedicated to teachers, parents, young children and Creative Forest Bathing.
Carmen also started the Urban X Oasis, a movement to scout, rediscover and raise awareness of urban green spaces which, as she says, are wonderful even in the middle of the busiest districts of Hong Kong.
“A transition from my education background really made me focus on dedicating my time to Forest Bathing and promoting this in Hong Kong. I started my own business, Catch A Breath, promoting wellness to people and families. I’m an Early Years Educator, worked for 10 years here in international schools in different settings, volunteering in different organizations. It’s lots of fun.
The girl under the willow tree
“I grew up in HK but emigrated to Canada when I was 6. My first memory, I guess, my nature connection started at that age: specifically there was a huge willow tree in our backyard. I remember I was allowed to sneak out and I just sat there, as a little girl just watching the leaves swaying back and forth.
“I think at that moment I felt so safe and it was like the willow tree was talking to me as a whisper, like telling me stories, just letting me know I was safe while sitting under. I think this is what inspired me to work with young children and to want to be an inspiration for them.
“It is much an academic focus in our HK society, and only in these past few years that play has been incorporated into this educational system, and forest play is something I’m most interested in and you know… The sensory part, children need that sensory exposure into the environment and that’s what stimulates their brain and their development.
“So for me it was lovely to learn about Forest Bathing, amusing our senses to connect with nature, allowing intrusion instead of being afraid of getting your hands dirty -that which I grew up with- just shifting that mindset and opening kids for exploration, curiosity and just dip their feet in the water, taking off the shoes, walk on the grass”.
The “very busy” kids
“In HK during the pandemic I saw kids suffering and also parents, especially parents. The demands were a lot higher. And over the years I’ve seen they realized there is a growing appreciation of going out to nature.
“Kids in HK are very busy kids. They have lots to learn, they go tutoring, they go to extra curricular classes, but now I’ve seen parents kind of loosen up, I’ve seen more families taking children to the parks. They realized that their kids just need to be outdoors and play and this interest has increased.
“That’s why though as a Forest Bathing Guide I’ve been mostly guiding adults, I’m working on a program for children and families in my community.
“I live in Sai Kung and also my project is called Urban X Oasis which is about discovering uban parks in HK, scouting parks, accessible green spaces and hoping to advocate accessible wellness and making forest bathing an accessible practice.
“I lead more walks in urban parks, promoting that there is a place near from home. The beauty of this city is that you have mountains and skylines, and also have parks in the middle of a busy district, where people have lunch and take that break. I also guide in the Lion Nature Education Centre and in Tai Po Kau”.
“The arts and creatives have also been a huge part of my life so I started website called Aesthetes Memoir where I document visuals of nature and share my reflection. I am now also working with artists and creatives in Hong Kong to run creative forest bathing through expressive arts, mindful photography, creative writing workshops”.
Own your well-being
“My goal is helping city dwellers integrate Forest Bathing in their daily life. The next step is to empower people to own their well-being. Make Forest Bathing accessible for workers, especially educators, busy moms and parents. I am here to help them along this journey to take ownership of their wellbeing.
“One of the things I sense as a guide is people surprise at the practice having to slow down, like they are surprised of being able to do that and sharing stories, wanting to incorporate it because they experience something new, out of their normal life routine. As a guide you feel like it’s normal but for people it is very new.
“Another thing is that some people don’t realize how tired they were until they slowed down, and they even fell asleep while they were lying down and say ‘I haven’t had such a great sleep in such a long time’.
“It encourages me. This is much needed and I’m so glad to be able to give that space. It’s the environment… And I’m here to create that space”.
Ph: Carmen Fung, http://catchabreath-naturewellbeinghk.com