Marta Battaini was born in Italy, studied Nursing and trained as FTHub Forest Therapy Practitioner some years ago. A current FHub trainer, she has traveled the world. In Congo, she spent 3 years taking care of disabled children and noticing how taking them to nature made them decrease their pain and improve their emotional state completely. Now in Colombia, she has trained through FTHub dozens of members of native communities as Forest Bathing Guides.
“Since I was a little girl I’ve loved nature a lot. We spent a lot of time outside, and I liked to make up stories in nature… But I think the strongest moment where I realized the power of nature, of the greatness, was when we went to the Amazon for our honeymoon with Manuel.
“With him, this tendency to be in nature was bigger, like we found ourselves in this as well. That’s why our honeymoon was also to visit indigenous communities in Bolivia and the Amazon. There I really understood the power of nature. As the natives say, ‘it’s pure life’.
“Later, as a nurse, I got to work in Africa with disabled children. Outside, among the green trees, the palms, they were much calmer. The pain was diminishing. There were a hundred children and adolescents with disabilities. And I was trying to take them outside as long as possible because this was happening.
“At some point I saw a book that talked about Forest Bathing, how much nature is beneficial to health, and it made sense to me to think about how there is a connection between the two things.”
“Why are we good in nature? Why are these children were happy when we brought them outside, they don’t feel the pain, they don’t feel the restlessness?
“So I met Forest Bathing, and on the internet I found Forest Therapy Hub, and I signed up. So I am from the north of Italy, from Udine, I started studying nursing at the University and that’s where I met Manuel. And when I finished, we went to Congo for three years to work with disabled children.
“Then I went to Albania for two years, without working in international community cooperation, but as a Forest Bathing Guide, as it was in a very beautiful place. So far there are no Guides there. In Albania I noticed a lot of distance from nature, a lot of focus on making hotels and developing in tourism, but very disconnected. So what I tried to do was to show that nature can be valorized for tourism, not destroying it but showing its beauty in these places”.
“I went back to Colombia to work with sustainable economy development project. Offering trainings in organic production agriculture, and also FTHub Forest Bathing Guide training to more than 40 people from the native resguardos.
“For me, guiding Forest Bathing is the most beautiful thing. Seeing people feeling good. I really like my job as a nurse, to help people to be better, to support them. When I see that people start the walk in one way and end in another, much better, I feel something similar to when I am a nurse in this other way.
“I am doing my job but with the help of nature, it is not me doing it. And I always say this when I’m training the guides: the big part is done by nature. It’s the most special thing: to see that people are better is the greatest satisfaction.”
“Once in Italy, also working for OIKOS, I guided a walk for immigrant children. They had told me that they had a lot of trauma with the forest because they walked on the Balkan route on foot, so I chose a place that was not so closed, and I offered a series of activities, but I realized that the problem was not the forest, but that they were teenagers, Islamic, and I was a woman and they had just arrived.
“They didn’t understand English either. It was very difficult, it’s as if they didn’t like it at all, because they are not used to being in nature either, nor used to it. They told me ‘what’s so beautiful here, why are we here?’
“After two hours, the operators told me ‘Marta, look, you did a miracle. In two hours none of them looked at their cell phones. They had a great time, they had fun, and it’s a good thing for them. It was a very special Forest Bathing walk. I don’t know what happened, but something happened. They were happy at the end, they enjoyed each other, like a playful moment, which they didn’t have much of either.
“We are all different, and when you go to work with groups of humans, anything can happen. You have to be ready to personalize situations, see with the group you have what they can do. Because nature does its part. But we have to find a way for them to connect with nature”.
Photos: Courtesy Marta Battaini, Piccoli Alberi