TurnAround Essex

Youth ages 15–21 who struggle with family, social, and personal problems find a new way of living through the Wilderness Foundation’s six month long TurnAround programme

Participants typically face multiple barriers to success, such as poverty, abusive or ineffective families, drug and alcohol abuse, school failure, and youth offending orders. Through outdoor adventures and intensive mentoring, TurnAround empowers young people to build a brighter future.


TurnAround uses wilderness therapy, challenging outdoor experiences, one-on-one life coaching, and educational activities to enable vulnerable young people to overcome their challenges and take control of their lives.

Our success rate averages 83% of our graduates entering further education or employment and sustaining this into the future.   We remain in contact with many young graduates on a regular basis.

The Programme

TurnAround begins with a week long journey in Scotland. Trained guides and professional wilderness facilitators lead the young people out of their urban environment and into the wild. Participants start to:

  • Learn problem-solving, teamwork, and persistence through camping, cooking, and living together
  • Calm their bodies and minds through immersion in a peaceful and beautiful natural setting
  • Work on emotional and interpersonal issues with intensive adult support
  • Detox (if necessary) from drug or alcohol abuse
  • Build aspiration and hope for the future

Earning Leave No Trace certification and the John Muir Award  for conservation activities, together with other accreditation, reinforces participants’ sense that they can achieve goals through diligence and teamwork.

The wilderness journey is only the beginning. For the rest of the year after their return, participants:

  • Join monthly daylong workshops with volunteer mentors, specialist providers and Wilderness Foundation staff to focus on a range of behaviour change outcomes
  • Meet at least once a week with a volunteer mentor, who is also available by phone or email between weekly sessions
  • Get involved in community volunteering and work experience placements
  • Meet fortnightly with a focus on social skills


A second wilderness experience toward the end of the year enables participants to see how much they have learned and grown. Often you would not recognize the negative, disengaged young people of the first trail in the disciplined and supportive team of the second.

At programme graduation, participants, families, mentors, supporters, and youth workers come together to celebrate young people’s TurnAround achievements. Awards and certificates not only recognize the work participants have done but also reinforce their self-confidence.


TurnAround profiled on BBC News ‘Breakfast’ programme

Monitoring and Evaluation

Since its inception in 2007, TurnAround has been evaluated by experts from the University of Essex School of Biological and Social Sciences. They have followed members of each TurnAround cohort during their programme year and for three years afterward. This method enables the researchers to determine the lasting effects of this intensive intervention.

The evaluations show that TurnAround has positive effects on participants’ self-esteem, mood, hope, self-efficacy and connection to nature. These findings add to the growing body of research documenting “the wilderness effect”: that young people who have authentic experiences in the outdoors develop better self-esteem.

Executive summaries of three TurnAround evaluation reports are available for download:

Make a Referral

TurnAround Essex runs twice a year.    The current programme is already under way.  The next programme will start in May 2018.

To apply for a place, or make a referral, please download, complete and return our Youth Service Referral Form

Click to download in Word format: Youth Service Referral Form v4.6 2018


We will acknowledge receipt of your completed form and one of our team will be in touch to progress the application.

Demand for places is high, and as such we operate a waiting list system when intakes are oversubscribed.


The Lady Diana Kemp Welch Scholarship Fund

TurnAround Essex is supported by the Dulverton Trust and Sir John Kemp-Welch which provides the project with funding in the memory of Lady Diana Kemp-Welch who was a much loved patron of the Wilderness Foundation.

Within the project participants will be eligible to apply for £200 to fund training, education or items that would benefit their wellbeing. Graduates of the project are then able to bid for a scholarship of £2000 to help with further education or training costs.

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