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January 9, 2020

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Big Island Adventures!

Pacific Quest Young Adult students recently visited OK Farms in Hilo, where they assisted in transplanting Mamaki and coffee plants.  The historic OK Farms is over 1,000 acres and is home to amazing waterfalls and exotic fruit varieties. 

After lending a helping hand on the farm, students enjoyed lunch by a scenic waterfall and then returned to Reeds Bay to enjoy some time playing in the ocean!  The group launched kayaks and SUPs from the ice ponds and paddled around Hilo Bay, taking in the beautiful scenery!

Learn more about our Young Adult Program here!

December 17, 2019

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Nature-assisted Therapy and Brain Development

Dr. Lorraine Freedle Travels to Taiwan

Pacific Quest’s Clinical Director, Dr. Lorraine Freedle was recently invited to speak for the Taiwanese Society of Wilderness in Taipei.  Dr. Chun-lin Cheng, a Psychiatrist, Jungian Analyst and officer of the Taiwanese Society of Wilderness (SOW) learned that Dr. Freedle was visiting Taiwan to teach sandplay therapy workshops and thought it would be an ideal opportunity to collaborate.  

Dr. Lorraine Freedle in Taipei

Dr. Cheng is the Medical Director of the Psychiatric Unit of the Far Eastern Hospital in Taipei.  Dr. Freedle had the privilege of touring the hospital and seeing first hand the incredible gardens of their Horticultural Therapy program, where patients have the opportunity to spend time in the garden in the large courtyard.

The main goal of the SOW is to connect people with nature for preservation. Dr. Freedle’s lecture, entitled, “Nature-assisted Therapy and Brain Development” emphasized how to use a growth-focused approach, environmental design, and nature-based activities to target brain development and assist young people to connect more meaningfully to themselves, others and the natural world.   

The audience was made up of  Horticultural Therapists, mental health professionals, and conservationists.  Dr. Lorraine took them on a “virtual visit” to Pacific Quest, where they learned about our program and how students acquire coping skills to manage stress.  Dr. Freedle notes, “We had a great response! People were very excited to learn more about Pacific Quest and nature-assisted therapy. The group had a lot of questions and were very interested in our new property and how we utilize our gardens therapeutically.”

Dr. Freedle with the Society of Wilderness in Taiwan

The SOW motto is ‘Wilderness is where life begins’ and it was evident the efforts being made to connect people with nature and the importance of utilizing nature in the healing process.  Dr. Freedle continues, “It was an amazing experience to be an international ambassador and to collaborate with a group that shares our values in connecting kids to the environment. All of our lives depend on protecting and sustaining our environment, and fostering that connection locally and globally.” 

October 22, 2019

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Staff Training at the Farm!

Last week Pacific Quest staff members participated in a company-wide training focused on Horticultural Therapy and Rites of Passage.  It was a great opportunity for the team to come together on our new farm property and have time to connect while learning new skills and strategies to work with our students.

Horticultural Therapy Director Travis Slagle teaching a workshop on “Rites of Passage in the Garden” highlighting the Polynesian voyage and canoe plants.

The training began with an introduction to the Four Shields and the Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics that’s utilized at Pacific Quest and an integral part of our program.  After the intro, the team divided up and spent the morning at various “stations” that focused on different learning objectives.  Staff members had the option of picking which workshop they wanted to participate in. Some of the options included: Meditation & Mandala workshop, Cordage and Ti lei making, medicine walk and planting skills, soil & compost, and hard project skills & “imagineering”. 

Field Manager Anthony Florig leads a workshop on “Tools for Relating with Tools”

One of the main goals was to emphasize the importance of how to incorporate these various lessons and projects into the daily routine with students. PQ Field Therapist Sarah Blechman, who helped organize and facilitate the training comments, “The whole day was so engaging! It was abundantly clear the facilitators were authentically passionate about the rich union and incredible effects of the interplay between horticulture, rites of passage and how to facilitate the two using the neurosequential model. My favorite part was when our program guides, managers and therapists all worked together to create our first garden bed in our ethnobotanical garden. Working on such a large project together felt like the whole community was working on a gift for our new farm.”

August 2, 2018

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HIP Agriculture Receives Award from PQ Foundation

Pacific Quest Foundation helps to steward a healthy island community by contributing to existing 501(c)(3) organizations on Hawai’i. Over the years since our founding, Pacific Quest has developed relationships with over 60 local non-profit organizations through donations from our company, employees and clients. The PQ Foundation was created to continue this tradition of stewardship.

The Pacific Quest Foundation has recently awarded a grant to the HIP Agriculture High School Mentorship and Apprenticeship Program.  We had the opportunity to interview Dash Kuhr, the Executive Director and Lead Educator at HIP Agriculture to learn more about this incredible program and how they are influencing the Big Island community.

Can you tell me a little about HIP’s background info and how it got started?

We have two locations in Kapaau (northern part of the Big Island) the Halawa Campus which serves as  the headquarters of HIP Agriculture and includes staff housing, classroom, office, design studio, and library as well as student kitchen, outdoor showers, community stage and outdoor classroom.  We also have the ʻIole Garden, which is the main pacific-style agroforestry garden, where students have the opportunity to study a more traditional indigenous system of agriculture.

HIP was founded in Spring 2011 and has been growing since!  We now have a team of eight adults we can financially support and a seasonal 6 week internship program.  The foundation of our program is based on the 3 pillars:

Youth education

Farmer training

Community outreach

HIP Agriculture is “Committed to educating and empowering the next generation of young farmers, The Hawai’i Institute of Pacific Agriculture offers a variety of programs designed to engage Hawai’i’s youth in sustainable agriculture, land stewardship, and healthy lifestyles.”

What are some of the projects and programs HIP is currently working on?  How many students do you all work with?

We serve about 1,000 students, offering field trips, after school programs and in-class presentations. We work with Kohala elementary school, as well as middle school and high school students from Honokaa, Waimea, and Waikoloa.  For the elementary and middle school students, we bring workshops and activities to supplement their science curriculum – compost and micro-organisms, pollinators and beekeeping, nutrition and cooking from the garden, and native Hawaiian plants – identification and their uses.

Middle school students have classes on plant propagation, traditional lashing, seed saving and mycology.  High school students have classes in advanced plant propagation, ecosystem dynamics, advanced beekeeping and advanced mycology.

Our high school mentorship and apprenticeship program has 23 students.  The students assist in preparing and planting the fields, laying out irrigation, fertilizing and maintenance. They learn a variety of hands on skills – including compost, harvesting protocol, fertilizer management, soil testing, ph testing, soil work, observation, and recording notes and data.  We have an apprenticeship program over the summer which provides a paid educational stipend.

Future goals of HIP and how can people help?

Our goal is to create a hui network of farmers to supply food to the local cafeterias.  We are also honing our curriculum so this program can be utilized in other locations. In addition, we host volunteer days and always need help!  We will have the Kohala Aina Festival in October and special events including Farm to Table and Full Moon gatherings.

September 15, 2017

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Pacific Quest Fall Tour 2017

By:  Yvette Slagle, Communications Manager

Pacific Quest recently hosted a program tour for some of our referring professionals visiting from the mainland.  It’s always a special treat to provide guests the opportunity to see first hand our beautiful gardens, meet our talented team and spend time on the island getting more familiar with what our program entails.

For some, this was a first time visit, while others had been to PQ in the past and were eager to see what has evolved and developed since their last visit.  The first day of the tour kicked off with PQ’s Clinical Director, Dr. Lorraine Freedle, who introduced guests to our camp system model and the Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics and Sandplay Therapy.

Afterwards, our visitors were able to see the Adolescent camps as well as the Young Adult kuleana camp in Ka’u and share a healthy lunch while learning more about our Wellness Program and Integrative Psychiatry with Dr. Britta Zimmer, PQ’s Medical Director.  The afternoon was spent participating in several student led activities, including making fresh garden salsa and learning about the 5 pillars of health, planting taro in the nursery, and learning more about Polynesian history.

The second day of the visit included a presentation with our Horticultural Therapy Director, Travis Slagle who shared insight on the importance of creating connection and meaning in the work in the garden and how this translates to other areas of a student’s life.  Afterwards, we visited the young adult program at Reeds Bay in Hilo and met with a panel of young adult students who shared their experience at Pacific Quest.

Overall, it was a great experience and we are thankful to everyone who made it out to the Big Island as well as to our dedicated team who made this visit a success!  Denise Westman, Outreach Director comments, “We appreciate everyone for taking the time to join us for this full two-day intensive visit.  This is an incredible opportunity to gain a better understanding of our program and take a glimpse into the powerful work occurring at PQ as well as feel the authenticity that shines through our staff.  Mahalo to all!’’

June 22, 2017

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Q & A with Academic Coordinator Isabel Holmes

Isabel joined the Pacific Quest team in 2016 after graduating from Vanderbilt University with her M.Ed in Human Development Counseling. She worked as a Young Adult Program Guide for seven months before moving into her current role as Academic Coordinator.  As the AC, Isabel strives to integrate the curriculum into our students’ daily process through groups and experiential learning opportunities.  This Q & A is an opportunity to learn more about Isabel and her valuable role at PQ!

Isabel Holmes, Academic Coordinator

What drew you to PQ?

I was drawn to Pacific Quest by the unique way our program combines mental health treatment, social-emotional learning, and experience of the outdoors. I was excited by the community approach to care, and have come to respect that even more during my time here. On a personal level, I thought that living on the Big Island and working at Pacific Quest would allow me to live and experience my own life in a radically different way, and that has absolutely proven true! My time here has challenged me in ways I didn’t previously know I could rise to meet, and has opened doors that I never knew existed.

What is your favorite part of PQ?

When I was working as a Program Guide, I used to joke that my favorite part of the job was sitting outside the luas at the end of the day, waiting for students to shower or complete their nightly routines. While it makes for an easy laugh, I meant it honestly, because it was in some of those moments, rolling around on a dirty floor in exhaustion verging on delirium, that I forged some of the best connections I ever had with students, whether through hilarious laughter over something completely silly or in a quiet moment of serious reflection on that day. I think what this really points to, and my real favorite part of PQ, is that the structure of our program gives us the opportunity to observe and help our students recognize and change their own patterns of behavior in a way that just doesn’t exist anywhere else.

What is your academic background?

My parents were both teachers, so I grew up in the world of academia. I attended Bryn Mawr College for undergrad, where I majored in English. I wasn’t the most motivated high school student, and it was at Bryn Mawr that I really found my own drive to learn and explore. I was able to take a wide variety of classes just because they interested me. After graduation, I ended up working at a boarding school outside of Boston, MA. The school environment was a comfortable one for me, and I had many opportunities to experience all the different things that make a school run. What I enjoyed most about that period of my life was my work with students in a residential community setting, and that led me to Vanderbilt, where I earned my M.Ed. in Human Development Counseling from the Peabody College of Education and Human Development. I completed my internships for my degree in a variety of school settings, gaining first-hand knowledge and experience in both counseling and academic program administration.

What about the PQ academic program is unique?

The PQ academic program is unique because it teaches our students to appreciate their environment, to appreciate their history, and to appreciate and care for themselves. Before they can be healthy learners, they must also be healthy people, and we provide access to a wide range of supports, structures, and skills to aid them in that quest, as well as opportunities to practice becoming both of those things.

What does Sustainable Growth mean to you?

In my eyes, sustainable growth means becoming the person you want to be slowly enough that it’s actually possible. We’ve all woken up on January 1st and named a litany of resolutions that we are going to enact to become a completely new version of ourselves right away. And we’ve all woken up on February or March 1st and bemoaned all the ways in which we are failing ourselves yet again, before waking up on August 1st and remembering nothing at all about any of it. These types of resolutions are often unsuccessful because they ask too much at once. A flower doesn’t bloom from a seed overnight, and humans are not capable of such rapid development, either. In order to really change, we must find our own rate of sustainable growth and incorporate new patterns and behaviors into our lives slowly.

How does Sustainable Growth tie into the PQ academic program?

Rather than seeking to completely change or “fix” a student during their short 8-12 week stay with us and consider them a finished product, the PQ curriculum teaches lifelong skills and concepts that students can take with them when they leave, to continue their process of sustainable growth over their entire lifetime.

June 9, 2017

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Pacific Quest to Donate a Portion of Profits to PQ Foundation

We are pleased to announce that Pacific Quest will now be donating a minimum of 1% of our profits annually to the Pacific Quest Foundation, a 501(c)(3) public charity whose mission is to support the Hawaii County community and its existing non-profit organizations.

Pacific Quest was founded in 2004 and over the years we have developed relationships with more than 60 different local non-profit organizations through donations from our company, its employees and its clients. With the generous support and donations from alumni, families, community members and businesses, we are excited to continue our tradition of stewardship within the Big Island community.Pacific Quest Announces Formation of Pacific Quest Foundation

Martha Bouchard, PQ Foundation Director, reflected on this decision to donate profits to the foundation, “It is essential to our mission to both be sustainable and in right relationship with the community in which we work and in which Pacific Quest has built such life changing programming for students. This has to go beyond the community service that our staff and students do. For us, being able to increase our capacity to give back to the island by helping to fund organizations that are the heart and soul of our local communities is a direct reflection of that commitment.” Donations to the foundation help to fund the organizations that sustain our island’s diverse communities, which benefit both residents and visitors alike.

Pacific Quest Foundation will begin accepting applications in Fall 2017. Requests will be considered from Hawaii Island based non-profit organizations in four general categories, including:

  • community or public service
  • environmental issues
  • health and education
  • youth and senior citizens

For more information on how to help support the Pacific Quest Foundation, please visit:

http://pqfoundation.org/donate-now/

November 21, 2016

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PQ Presents at IECA Conference in New Orleans

By: Yvette Slagle, Communications Manager

Pacific Quest’s Clinical Director, Dr. Lorraine Freedle and Medical Director, Dr. Britta Zimmer recently co-presented at the 2016 Independent Educational Consultant Association conference in New Orleans.  Their presentation “The Gut Brain Connection: Emerging Trends in Integrative Health” began with the simple question, “What comes to mind when you hear the term ‘gut feeling’?”  Audience members commented “intuition,” “instinct,” and “trust”.  With more than 90 % of the body’s serotonin being created in the digestive tract, this collaborative presentation highlighted how “gut feelings” are real, and how a “second brain” consisting of millions of neural networks and micro bacteria work together to send signals from the gut to the brain.  Research suggests an imbalance in the gastrointestinal tract can lead to an imbalance in the brain resulting in a myriad of issues ranging from anxiety, depression, mood dysregulation and autoimmune disease.

Pacific Quest Presents at IECA Conference New Orleans

Dr. Britta Zimmer and Denise Westman at IECA New Orleans

The session focused on the importance of treating the whole person in an informed and targeted manner to maximize the effectiveness of treatment.  Dr. Zimmer shared current research that suggests inflammation in the gut directly correlates to inflammation in the brain, and the ways in which gut microbiota affects the state of mind.  She highlighted the importance of consuming probiotics found in yogurt and fermented foods.  In addition, she discussed inflammatory substances – processed foods, environmental toxins and emotional stress and the importance of decreasing inflammation in the body through sleep hygiene, physical activity, deep breathing and stress resiliency.

Following the presentation, Pacific Quest’s Outreach Director, Denise Westman, commented, “I’m always so energized after hearing my colleagues engaged and excited to learn more about this important work we are doing with our students. We are so fortunate to have Lorraine and Britta collaborating on such a timely subject and working closely together to positively impact our students.”

To learn more about Pacific Quest and our integrative, whole person approach, please visit the following links:

October 23, 2016

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Pacific Quest Receives AHTA Therapeutic Garden Design Award

By: Yvette Slagle, Communications Manager

Pacific Quest’s Horticultural Therapy Director Travis Slagle M.A. recently accepted the national award in Therapeutic Garden Design from the  American Horticultural Therapy Association (AHTA). The nomination process included an outpouring of inspiring testimonials from families, alumni, educational consultants, and mental health professionals from across the country. Travis comments, “The greatest part of this award is knowing that our gardens are saving lives, re-invigorating families, and changing the face of wilderness therapy.  Receiving this award is a humbling reminder that hard work pays off, and why healing gardens belong at the center of our communities as a reminder of our own resilience and of life’s endless possibilities.”

Pacific Quest receives AHTA Therapeutic Garden Design Award

Travis accepting award at AHTA Conference in St. Louis

Pacific Quest’s commitment to stewardship and their neurosequential approach to garden design and program structure makes them well deserving of this recognition.  Here is one of the many testimonials that the AHTA committee received during the award nomination:

“Our daughter was lost, struggling, and unhappy. She reconnected to nature and her healthy self through Pacific Quest’s horticultural therapy program.  Simple and hard work in nature helped her strip away unhealthy behaviors and unproductive patterns, and empowered her to understand how good process leads to good outcomes. In the garden, she learned how to work with others, delay gratification, tend weeds (psychological and natural), embrace discomfort, and envision a positive future. She developed resilience and sense of self by getting a little dirty and doing a little hard work. Every day, PQ’s guides and therapists helped her see how her work was helping her heal. We will be forever grateful to PQ and that patch of dirt for helping our daughter get past a dark period in her life.”

Upon his return from the AHTA conference and award ceremony, Travis shared, “Looking back to when PQ first began, we spent most our days hauling rocks and burning piles of dead grass to clear the jungle to make space for a visionary garden that would one day become the epicenter of our values as an organization.  As we cleared the land, one by one we planted fruit trees and built garden beds that have become a beacon of hope and inspiration for so many people.  I feel honored to be a part of it!”

September 5, 2016

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PQ Presents at Wilderness Therapy Symposium

Pacific Quest’s Horticultural Therapy Director, Travis Slagle, M.A. recently co-presented with Darcy Ottey, M.A. at the 2016 Wilderness Therapy Symposium in Park City, Utah.  The three hour experiential workshop focused on the ecological perspective of rites of passage and provided conference attendees hands on activities to activate the senses and deepen their understanding of the integration of rites of passage and nature assisted therapy.  Travis comments, “I believe this is the next wave of innovation in wilderness therapy.  The challenge of the future isn’t going to be climbing a mountain, or hiking in the desert, it’s helping young people learn how to live a more sustainable life.”

Travis Slagle, Horticultural Therapy Director

Travis Slagle, Horticultural Therapy Director

This breakout session brought together clinicians and direct care staff from across the country and included a PQ alumni, now finishing her last semester of college. Together, Travis and the alumni led the audience in a lesson on transplanting; offering participants a tangible experience to reflect on the biological process of stress and adaptation in nature and how to use this as a metaphor for the life transitions that clients experience in treatment and beyond. Participants commented that the highlight of the workshop was hearing the PQ alumni talk about her journey toward self-acceptance and describe the role that working in a garden played in overcoming the debilitating effects of depression.  The alumni commented, “Two years ago, I would have never imagined that I would be here today planting flowers!”

As the presentation concluded, audience members had the opportunity to reflect on their experience.  Participants reported that they felt “deeply moved,” “inspired,” and “hopeful” after the workshop.  As Travis states,”We are promoting a paradigm shift in wilderness therapy, and the greatest reward in my work is seeing the change that our alumni students are bringing to the world, and the love and hope they bring to their families!”

To learn more about Horticultural Therapy and Rites of Passage at Pacific Quest, please visit the following links: