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 natural health service:
Jayne explores how time in the great outdoors can help your wellbeing BBC Breakfast (@BBCBreakfast) September 6, 2016:
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 recognise the work participants have done but also reinforce their self-confidence.
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: