Marzena Zachowska and Maria Rothert are pioneers. Not only their live interview on the State Forest’s Facebook account was seen by 9 thousand people. As FTHub-trained Forest Bathing guides, their professional leadership in Forest Bathing is a milestone in the forest industry and landowners. They work together in a field with common interests: health through forests and a nature-friendly society. These are their paths and their work.
Maria Rothert is a Forest Bathing Guide trained by FTHub in Poland, landscape architect and forester. She works in State Forests as a specialist in tourism and recreation. She started as a pioneer 13 years ago focusing on the influence of the forest on physical, mental and social health.
Her career is vast and full of highlights regarding Forest Bathing as a General Directorate of State Forests, like her participation in the EUROPARC 2019 conference, writing articles and lecturing on health and forest on summits. As a Forest Bathing guide, she now leads the project called “Przytul las” (Hug the forest).
“In order to inspire forest landowners and the forestry industry with Forest Bathing, it is important to create opportunities to get to know each other (e.g. foresters and guides). Forests in Poland cover 1/3 of the country’s area, and the vast majority is managed by the State Forests.
“Promoting, organizing joint actions, providing knowledge of what Forest Bathing is, organizing demonstration walks, training for foresters and getting used to the subject. Thanks to this, Forest Bathing is a more known topic among foresters. In turn, thanks to this, guides have a “paved” way of communication and room for action”.
The social role of forests
“Joint initiatives are promoting the social function of the forest, building a community of people aware and respectful of nature. For Forest Bathing Guides, this is about building good relations with land managers, access to interesting areas, knowledge of local rules and mutual promotion. We care about the same: health and a nature-respecting society.
“Having a comparison between the big city and the forest and being a forester gives me a great base to build the offer for people who come from cities to the forests like to spa centers for weekends or holidays. I create an offer for adults who need a break from the city to show participants the new look on the forest, deeper feeling of it and show them Forest Bathing as a whole concept of wellbeing and care of themselves and the planet”.
“After the training, guides are not left alone”
“The Forest Bathing guide training gave me an opportunity to meet great, sensitive people who I recommend to conduct workshops for foresters. The training helped me tidy up the knowledge about Forest Bathing and taught me practical techniques and gave me more confidence to start guiding.
“During the whole training I felt looked after, inspired and I was free to ask and had access to the rich experience of my mentors. After the training, guides are not left alone. FTHub creates ways to support our work and to develop Forest Bathing in Poland.
“I really like to prepare a Forest Bathing session. When I start the session and see the curiosity on the faces, then I hear and see the participants open up. It is amazing how they share their feelings. They talk wonderfully about how the forest affects them. And I love that each walk is different. Even in the same place, at the same time of the year. It is people who give it a different energy”.
“Besides the forest, you need to love people”
Marzena is one of the Forest Bathing Guides trained by FTHub in the magical landscapes of Poland, where among bison, ancient trees and fellowship this pioneer of mental health and nature enhanced her skills and now works with people at rehabilitation centers.
“I have been working with people with disabilities and their loved ones for over 20 years, teaching nature, biology to children with intellectual dysfunctions, using dog therapy, sociotherapy, mindfulness, and soon TSR (solution focused) therapy. My resources as a Forest Bathing Guide resulted in working with people with a variety of issues being cared for during the Forest Bathing session. I founded a company called Leśne Zanurzenie where I run Forest Bathing sessions at the Kadyny Rehabilitation Center and the New Jantar Natural Medicine Center in the beautiful forests of the Vistula Spit and Elbląg Upland.
“The training gave me concrete tools to lead careful walks. It opened my heart and my head to my own needs and improved my functioning. It was also an amazing opportunity to meet wonderful people with whom I still maintain warm contacts. The training gave me the opportunity to participate in other forms of cooperation and encouraged me to continue my development.
“The best of guiding Forest Bathing walks is the contact with people, realizing how they need a relationship not only with the forest, but with another human being. Sometimes the sessions extend beyond the agreed time, because no one wants them to end, this is a great feeling. This also proves that not everyone can be a guide: besides the forest you need to love people.
“Foresters in Poland already know what Forest Bathing is and how it affects people’s mental and physical health. The Directorate General of State Forests supports me in searching for ideal places for Forest Bathing and they promote it as well. There is also a film about Forest Bathing published on public television and financed by the State Forests. So it is very, very good”.