Official Launch Of Our New Website Coming Soon.

Who We Are

GIFT is…

GIFT Icon
  • The Global Institute of Forest Therapy and Nature Connection, a registered non-profit organization based in North America (Canada #939699-3)
  • An organization that trains people to become certified Forest Therapy Guides (FTG)

  • A support group, providing new programs to help FTGs to continue their education as guides and in the fields of nature connection, conservation education, and personal growth

In general, GIFT is an organization that engages in and promotes nature connection and improved physical and mental health through forest therapy/bathing walks and other outdoor nature-immersion activities. We train forest therapy guides and engage in the dissemination of health and nature connection research, in addition to collaborating with and supporting researchers investigating the benefits and best practices of guiding forest therapy/bathing walks.  We also support trained forest therapy guides, helping them to develop their unique and fulfilling vocation by offering them support to create the foundations they need to become successful guides in their communities and professional lives.

Our Mission

At GIFT we see a world where humans and the natural environment are healthy and vibrant. We recognize that as creatures of this Earth, human health is embedded within the health of the larger web of life on Earth.

Humans are being subjected to more and more pressure to perform and contribute to an ever-growing culture of production and consumption. This kind of lifestyle creates a baseline of stress within our bodies that makes it very challenging to sustain mental and physiological health. Forest therapy, and other nature connection practices, are pathways to returning to a baseline of health and happiness. Forest therapy guides people into pleasurable experiences with the forest that create joyful, relaxing and reflective connection, offering proven mental and physiological health benefits. We care for what we love, and we love what feels good to feel connected to, and so at GIFT we are dedicated to creating a circle of health of humans and all of nature around our planet.

If you pause to listen, the forest allows you to be softly wild again.

Forest Therapy Guide Trainee

Meet the GIFT Team

Welcome to our international forest therapy guiding community! A deeply feeling and skilled bunch of guides who all come together in their love of nature and provide gateway experiences for people to step through and experience their innate human capacity to be in intimate connection with the living world in ways that are healing for the whole circle of life….humans, other-than-human-beings, and our living landscapes.

Click on any guide to find out more about their passions, skills, location, and offerings.

Ramola Porchuk (Singh)
Founder, Instructor

Romola Porchuk

Ben Porchuk
Founder, Trainer

Ben Porchuk

Sky Maria Buitenhuis
Founder, Instructor

Sky Maria

Karen Laine
COO, Instructor, Mentor

Karen Laine

Roxanne Cote
Instructor, Mentor

Roxanne Côté

Rob Klea
Instructor, Mentor

Rob Klea

Patti Phillips
Instructor, Mentor

Patti Phillips

Karen Shephard
IIT, Mentor

Karen Shephard

Sue Hamel
Instructor, Mentor

Sue Hamel

Claire Beach
Instructor, Mentor

Claire Beach

Monica Sander Burns
Instructor, Mentor

Monica Sander Burns

Carol Andrews
IIT, Mentor

Carol Andrews

Monique Giroux
IIT, Mentor

Monique Giroux

Meghan Casey
IIT, Mentor

Meghan Casey

Katie Jereski
Mentor

Katie Jereski

Sophie Monkman
Mentor

Sophie Monkman

Jessica Middleton
Mentor

Jessica Middleton

Katherine Brooks
Marketing Specialist

Katherine Brooks

Founder, Instructor

Romola Porchuk

“Romola holds a doctorate in clinical and organizational psychology and has practiced in the field since 1993 working as a clinician, consultant, and adjunct professor. Romola has worked clinically in the areas of anxiety and depression, trauma, eating disorders, addiction, sexuality, family and marriage/partnership, custody, mediation and cultural repair. She has had the privilege of time spent specifically working with First Nations both in Ontario and Saskatchewan. Her consulting practice works with transitions, strategy, and creation/transition of culture and values within organizations. She works with provincial, federal, private and non-profit organizations.

The foundation of her practice lies in the humanistic and feminist traditions believing in the power of the mind/body/spirit integrative approach to solutions and healing. In this way, Forest Therapy such a beautiful practice to integrate a process based on clinical humanistic foundations to help the guide provide a bridge with their participants to experience growth and healing within the forest. She is excited to create and facilitate this meaningful curriculum with GIFT (Photo Credit, B.P.).”

Hometown:Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada

Founder, Trainer

Ben Porchuk

Spending most of his career as a wildlife researcher, he earned a Master’s degree for his work studying the ecology and conservation of the endangered Blue Racer. Ben lived for 12 years off the grid, leading The Wilds of Pelee Island as Executive Director. Later, Ben co-led Traditional Medicinal Native Plant inventories and plant meditations with First Nations. After having taken several courses such as Reiki, Access Consciousness, and Yoga teacher training, Ben became Canada’s first certified Forest Therapy Guide. Ben has led over 150 forest therapy walks across Canada and the U.S. as a guide and trainer. Along the journey, Ben met many Forest Therapy Guides and Trainers and was inspired to co-create an ethical, non-profit organization for training Forest Therapy Guides. Ben has four children and he lives with his wife in Forest City (London), Ontario (photo by Tammy Belaire Ford).

Hometown:Virginia, Ontario, Canada

Founder, Instructor

Sky Maria

Sky has extensive experience supporting people to deepen their connection to nature, including our own inner nature. She is the co-founder of the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy, and was the Director of Training and Certification for ANFT. As a nature connection guide, Sky draws on her trainings as both a Work-That-Re-Connects and an 8-Shields facilitator. Sky’s passion is to offer people the experience of ‘coming home’, that is remembering that as a human we are embedded in this complex and infinitely diverse web of life on our beautiful planet Earth. She is deeply moved and nourished by supporting and witnessing others having this embodied, innately human, experience of returning home to wholeness.

Hometown:Galway, Ireland

COO, Instructor, Mentor

Karen Laine

Karen’s work has long included leadership support for social/environmental purpose organizations working on environmental, conservation and sustainability issues.

Concurrently she has also has a career as a nurse, paramedic, herbalist, meditation teacher, trauma informed energy/bodyworker in somatic release, and craniosacral therapist, and developed a style of Nature-Connected Bodywork, working with plant and animal partners, elements and senses, and including mindfulness exercises that build deep nature connection experience and embodied connection skills for her clients.
The place where health, nature connection, and eco-spirituality meet is her passion, and sharing strategies for ‘deep listening’, and healing our sense of separation has been lifelong work.

Hometown:Ucluelet, British Columbia, Canada (formerly of the Forest City, ON).

Instructor, Mentor

Roxanne Côté

Roxanne loves sharing her passion for the forest and offering opportunities for others to deepen their nature connection. As an experienced guide with a clinical therapy background, her walks are a delightful balance of connection to the wild self, connection to nature and playfulness. Roxanne also offers individual ecotherapy services and training. You can reach out to her through her website at www.humainetterre.com

Hometown:Waterville, Québec, Canada

Instructor, Mentor

Rob Klea

Rob has a passion for connecting, whether it is in the human to human realm or connecting with nature. As an educator and forest therapy guide, Rob works with the natural world to open minds and create opportunities for personal growth and awareness. Rob has witnessed the transformational experiences that connecting with nature provides and is excited to bring the practice of Forest Therapy and Nature Connection to others.

Hometown:Stratford, Ontario, Canada (currently lives in Kitchener and Tobermory, ON)

Instructor, Mentor

Patti Phillips

Patti partners with other than human beings to offer nature supported healing and growth on the land where prairie meets the forest in eastern Manitoba. She hosts Nurture Our Nature Retreats in the town of Pinawa, on Treaty 3 land. Nature therapy is the root of her personal and professional practice. It has been in her middle years, in the liminal space between what has been and what is yet to come, that she’s answering the call to return to own natural, authentic self. Patti guides other middle life women to do the same.

Hometown:Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada (Currently in Pinawa, MB)

IIT, Mentor

Karen Shephard

Karen trained with GIFT in 2019 and found it such a deeply healing and life-changing process, she knew it was something I had to share. Karen was already a Forest School practitioner and went on to found Better Outdoors, a not-for-profit providing low or no-cost nature-connecting experiences, including Forest Therapy, to support well-being and mental health. Karen is happiest among the trees where she is home, can breathe, and be still.

Instructor, Mentor

Sue Hamel

Sue Hamel is a passionate guide, educator, adventurer, and mother of two. Most of her career has been in conservation, environmental education, and wilderness guiding. She deeply appreciates the practice of forest therapy and the benefits physically, mentally, and for some, spiritually. Sue loves living on the Northshore of Lake Superior and enjoys exploring the Boreal forest and abundant freshwater in all seasons. She guides walks with EcoSuperior in Thunder Bay, and her private guiding business.

Hometown:Ottawa (now Thunder Bay), Ontario, Canada

Instructor, Mentor

Claire Beach

Claire is the Being behind ‘Among the Trees Forest Therapy’. She lives on the lands of Treaty 57 in Eastern Ontario and has guided over 100 walks. She spent many years searching for awe and wonder on wild adventures. With motherhood came a new sense of urgency to repair her relationship with the Earth, to rise rooted and strive for a brighter future. The practice of Forest Therapy is at the centre of her self-care and community work.

Instructor, Mentor

Monica Sander Burns

Monica Sander Burns moved from Australia to Whistler, BC where she lives with her partner and two cats. During Covid, the solace and connection in the coniferous forests of the Pacific Northwest led her to train as a Forest Therapy Guide. Monica owns the Society of Trees and offers Forest Therapy experiences throughout the Sea-to-Sky. In 2022, she joined GIFT as an Instructor and Mentor.

IIT, Mentor

Carol Andrews

A lifetime working and playing in the forests of British Columbia, from Haida Gwaii to the Kootenays, crafted Carol’s deep nature connection. As a professional forester, and forestry instructor, her introduction to Forest Therapy further strengthened her understanding of the far-reaching benefits of spending time in the forest. She continues to share her passion, love, and knowledge of our natural environment through her community work and on special walks, guiding others.

IIT, Mentor

Monique Giroux

Monique Giroux retired early from her 30-year career and embraced a simpler, nomadic lifestyle, traveling the world to connect with guides. She founded the Forest Guide Circle, a global community of forest therapy guides. Monique helps others slow down and connect with nature by supporting wellness retreats, forest therapy events, and training in Ontario during the summer months.

IIT, Mentor

Meghan Casey

Meghan Casey is a passionate forest therapy guide. Meghan and her family protect the Chilamate Rainforest in Sarapiqui Costa Rica where they live and work. If you can’t find them in the jungle they will be at their beach retreat in Nosara Costa Rica or exploring the rainforest on Vancouver Island, BC, Canada.

Mentor

Katie Jereski

Gayatri is the owner of Peaceful Pine Wellness and is passionate about helping you awaken your intuitive healing naturally. With a decade of experience in wellness and healing modalities, Gayatri supports discovering inner peace and relaxation as a Certified Forest Therapy Guide with GIFT, Certified Yoga Teacher, Sound Healing Practitioner, Community Herbalist and Reiki Practitioner.

Mentor

Sophie Monkman

Sophie is the founder of Soft Earth Forest Therapy in Tiotia:ke/Montreal, Quebec, and is a major proponent of nature connection work in urban centres, as life-affirming connections with the more-than-human world can unfold wherever you are.

Mentor

Jessica Middleton

Marketing Specialist

Katherine Brooks

Katherine is a freelancer in the field of communications and marketing with a special interest in environmental protection, nature connection, health, and community. She is passionate about creating meaningful connections to people and the planet through her work.