Last week a group of intrepid young people spent their time canoeing down the River Wye as part of the Wilderness Foundation’s TurnAround Project. They were joined by TRT World who documented the journey and the positive effect that spending time in nature can have on mental health and wellbeing
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.
The programme 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. For TurnAround7 that second trail took our group to Wales and a canoe journey on the River Wye. The group paddled by day and wild camped by night, accompanied by a team of guides, facilitators and volunteers. The experience was transformational – as the TRT World Insight film attests.