The current instance of TurnAround began in late June with a selection day which involved young people working as a team to make a catapult, taking part in archery and talking to staff and each other about why they want to be part of the project.  From the selection day a group of young people was formed to make up this current project which is the 7th TurnAround Project that has been run by the Wilderness Foundation UK in Essex since 2007.

Since the selection day the group has taken part in social evenings to build group belonging and to get to know each other, workshop days to work on specific skills such as communication and bushcraft and most recently a week long wilderness trail in South Lanarkshire, Scotland.  As part of the TurnAround Project the group will take part in two wilderness journeys and this is a highlight for the group and key part of the project.  TurnAround is evaluated by the University of Essex and the wilderness trail is where we see the most substantial change in the young people including improved self-esteem, improved mood and improved desire to change.
Here are some examples of some of the comments about the trail from the young people:
When asked what they were hoping to get out of the trail and the wider project
“I want to learn to push myself to overcome and achieve the things that I could never have thought of doing, to enjoy life, make good friends, and also give me the help I need to go further in life”
“I want to learn to be prouder of myself and turn most negatives into a positive”
What have you learnt on the trip?
“I learnt a lot, I learnt that I am more active and healthier than I realised, I can get through hard times and can do this with support from the group and staff.  I also learnt that I need to push myself to overcome barriers and to achieve the things I didn’t think were possible.  I feel that I can enjoy life, make friends and have a positive future”
“I learnt that I actually like myself as a person and that I don’t have to be the person that I pretend to be when I am at home.  I want to go home and be proud to just be me”
As you can see from the comments the trail was a great experience for the group and an excellent chance for the group to reflect on themselves and about their lives and what they what to do differently.  Each day on the trail we shared readings and quotes to inspire the group and one of these quotes really sums up the TurnAround Project:
“The 3 C’s of life are choices, chances and changes.  You must take a chance to make a choice or your life will never change”

As a group the young people are now beginning one to one mentoring which takes place weekly in the local community and relies on volunteers.  Each young person is matched to a mentor who will now see them through the rest of the project.  If you are interested in becoming a mentor please check our main website for details.  As well as mentoring we will also continue to meet as a group for our workshops and social evenings and there is a second wilderness trail in October.
The TurnAround Project has been offered since 2007 delivering six cohorts of young people through the project.  The aim of TurnAround is for young people aged 15 – 21 to make a positive change to their lives using nature as a catalyst.  TurnAround is a structured programme with a focus on clear outcomes however, we support each young person with their own individual needs which is what makes the project a success.  TurnAround is evaluated by the University of Essex and our success to date is that 83% of graduates are engaged with education or employment by the end of the project.
Participants typically face multiple barriers to success such as poverty, abusive or ineffective families, drug and alcohol abuse, school failure, and youth offending orders. TurnAround uses wilderness therapy, challenging outdoor experiences, one-on-one mentoring, and educational activities to enable vulnerable young people to overcome their challenges and take control of their lives.
Eligibility Criteria & selection process
This programme is aimed at the following:

  • Young people aged 15 – 21 years old.
  • Young people who reside in Essex.
  • Young people who are comfortable to be outdoors.
  • Young people who can benefit from confidence building and personal development.
  • Young people who can benefit from improving their employability skills.
  • Young people who have a desire and commitment to change.

Our next TurnAround Project will run from January 2017 and is for young people living in Essex aged 15 – 21 years old.  If you want to find out more please visit our TurnAround Project page or call Rosie (Project Co-ordinator) on 0300 123 3073.