Imbewu Scotland

Imbewu means seed in Zulu. We take young people, who may not have had the best start in life and we give them transferable skills and a way into employment

How we do it

Weeklong trails in the most remote and beautiful parts of Scotland grow participants’ love of the outdoors and interest in rural careers along with their employability and social skills.

Supported in part by Scottish Land & Estates, the programme connects urban youth—most of whom have never experienced the natural world before—with the wisdom of people who live and work in rural Scotland. Aside from the many benefits to youth’s social and physical well-being, Imbewu also inspires young Scots to consider opportunities for rural employment.

The programme is open to young people aged 13-16 from one of our 40 partner schools in cities across Scotland. We run 3-4 groups every year and we can take up to 10 young people on each.

Watch us in action

The programme

The Wilderness Foundation

Imbewu is a weeklong experiential learning course in rural Scotland for groups of up to 10 young people. The course features a three-day wilderness trail in Scotland’s wildest countryside. Led by professional wilderness guides, participants:

  • Learn camp craft by hiking, camping in tents, and cooking outdoors
  • Build problem-solving skills and grow their self-esteem by encountering and meeting challenges posed by the natural world
  • Practice conservation and Leave No Trace principles

As in all Wilderness Foundation outdoor programmes, Imbewu participants enhance their well-being simply by being outdoors in the wild world.

Participants are inspired to preserve natural spaces and explore new career pathways. The curriculum includes rural heritage, conservation practice, estate management, and sustainable land management. Experienced gamekeepers and estate managers help supervise hands-on experience with rural jobs such as wildlife conservation, estate management, fishing and forestry, and renewable energy.


In the course of the weeklong programme, participants earn the John Muir Award and Leave No Trace accreditation. These recognitions enhance not only participants’ self-esteem but also their employability.

Following graduation, our project manager continues to help Imbewu participants explore rural careers. Our Pathways to Progress handbook guides them into further education choices, employment, and work experience in rural Scotland.

In addition, our partner estates and other rural employers offer work placement and volunteer opportunities for many Imbewu graduates.

Our Impact

A two-year pilot, funded by Scottish Natural Heritage and the European LEADER Programme, studied the outcomes of six Imbewu trails. Of the 85 participants:


young people made curriculum course choices based on their Imbewu experience


young people were influenced by Imbewu in their further education choices


young people took took part in rural employment


young people reported an increased connection to nature

“In November 2017 I took part in the Imbewu experience, at first I was very nervous about attending, I hadn’t been on many trips away from my family but the atmosphere felt like home. I loved every minute of it and found all of the activities we did incredibly interesting. It was great having such positive and supportive people around you. I took so much away with me including lots of new skills, also beautiful memories that will stay with me forever. It was only after participating in the Imbewu that I realised I desired a rural career. I am thinking about becoming a park ranger, this was after seeing the job that Vicky (a local ranger) is involved in. I started thinking of how interesting a job it would be.” 

Eilidh - 2017 Imbewu participant

Imbewu Dates 2019

Each Imbewu programme has 10 places available for young people in Scotland, aged 14 – 17 years. Locations for Imbewu 2019 are still being confirmed.

21st – 27th March 2019

16th – 22nd May 2019

13th – 19th June 2019

Refer a young person>

Contact Us

Helen Denny
Helen DennyImbewu Scotland Project Manager
Helen is an experienced consultant and project manager working For the Wilderness Foundation on a freelance basis since 2016 managing our Scottish Programme – Imbewu. Working with a wide range of Schools, Estates and and other key Partners Imbewu enables young people in Scotland to access and learn about rural jobs, connect with nature and develop their employability skills.
Contact Helen

Sean’s Story

At 17, Sean was one of our older Imbewu students. Because he has dyslexia, Sean attended Hollybrook Academy in Glasgow, a school for pupils with additional learning needs. Sean always wanted to work in nature but never had the opportunity.

On the recommendation of his teacher, Sean applied for Imbewu and was accepted for the programme at the Douglas Estate, North Lanarkshire, in September 2014.

Sean took enthusiastic part in the three-day wilderness camping expedition, learning about wildlife and land use. During the following three days, he and the other participants worked with estate staff and local volunteers on conservation tasks such as making and erecting bird boxes.

Sean so impressed the Douglas staff that the estate manager offered him a week’s work experience. Following successful completion of a week with the Douglas gamekeeper team, Sean accepted another week’s placement on a different estate in spring 2015. The Douglas & Angus Estates then offered him a two-year modern apprenticeship in gamekeeping. Sean is considering further education at the University of the Highlands in gamekeeping.

“Sean said from Day One that he’d like to be a gamekeeper when he leaves school. I never thought there was anything we could do to facilitate this for a boy from a Glasgow scheme who attends an additional learning needs school. Through the Wilderness Foundation and the kindness of the people at Douglas & Angus Estates, Sean got to experience his dream job.”

Steven Lawrie, Hollybrook Academy

How you can help