[slideshow_deploy id=’8494′]The Wilderness Foundation held a special TurnAround 5 Graduation ceremony for six young people who have completed the twelve month TurnAround Programme with the Foundation on Monday 18 August.
The event was held to celebrate the achievements of the young people who all come from challenging backgrounds and who took part in a tough and demanding 12 month personal development programme with the Foundation. They were supported by friends, family, social services staff and among them a very special guest, the High Sheriff of Essex, Mr. Nicholas Charrington.
The evening consisted of inspiring and emotional speeches from the young people which drew tears of joy and pride from all in attendance. One young person commented: “When I failed my AS-levels I was distraught, believing my life to be over, but the Wilderness Foundation picked me up when no one else would. I learnt so many things and made many new friends on this journey and am back on track thanks to the TurnAround project. I will remember this year for the rest of my life.”
Shianne Witt, another young graduate of the TurnAround project gave an emotional speech at the event: “Before I started turn around I was like a deflated ball, I had lost my bounce. I was no longer useful and was left to survive on my own. Then an opportunity was given, and each time I attended was like pumping a little bit of air in to me gradually filling up. A year on and I am now full of air and I have bounce, I am no longer that deflated ball.
I am very thankful for those that have been here to help me along the way. And without turn around I wouldn’t be the person I am today. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to be myself and thank you to the group for being so understanding and caring.”
Once the speeches were done, and before the celebratory meal and drinks were served, each of the young people were presented with certificates of achievement by the High Sheriff.
The TurnAround project is a nature based programme that offers vulnerable young people the chance to make positive changes to their life and future through a plethora of outdoor activities, excursions and workshops. This year the programme consisted of snow shoeing in the Pyrenees, kayaking and wild camping in Menorca, sailing with The Cirdan Trust as well as a number of personal development workshops and mentoring sessions. This year was also the first year that the programme offered peer mentoring. The first ever peer mentor reflected: “Peer mentoring gives back as much as you give. An eye-opening, rewarding and amazing years’ worth of experience and it’s been such a privilege to be able to input to other young people’s lives.”
Jo Roberts, CEO of the Wilderness Foundation UK, commented “It was fabulous to be able to celebrate the achievements of our participants, who have shown commitment and a willingness to grow and change, often under very tough personal circumstances. They have shown courage and trust and are an inspiration. It was an honour and a delight that the High Sheriff could join us. TurnAround is a fantastic way for troubled young people to engage with nature and to take steps towards a more positive future. Congratulations to all those who took part.”
The High Sherriff of Essex, Nicholas Charrington, presented the Graduates with their certificates and said: “I was overwhelmed by the work of The Wilderness Foundation and their supporters. The charity is genuinely turning lives around – a point made very clear through talking to the Graduates. They had lived through a series of experiences and had formed a set of relationships that will give them hope and confidence to take their lives forward and it simply would not have happened but for the programme The Wilderness Foundation has established.
“I was also delighted to see the friends and family of the Graduates giving their support to all that has been achieved – it can only go to increase the likelihood of long term success. It was also inspiring to see the commitment of the mentors and witness how they have forged friendships that have clearly opened the eyes and minds of the Graduates. I hope the TurnAround project continues to go from strength to strength and wish everyone involved all the best for the future.”
The report on the graduation was authored by Kevin Pearce, a young graduate of this year’s TurnAround project, who is an aspiring journalist.
The TurnAround Programme is one of the Wilderness Foundation’s flagship projects. This 12 month project works with small groups of young people who are at serious risk of school or social exclusion or ho are referred from Youth Offending teams as a result of offending behaviour that could potentially lead to custodial sentences.  TurnAround uses Wilderness trails, group workshop sessions and 1:1 mentors to re-engage the Young People and improve their life chances, self-confidence and choice making. This programme has a 83% success rate of participants moving onto full time education, enrolling in a vocational training course or finding employment.