TurnAround Essex

TURNAROUND empowers young people to build a brighter future

Why we do it

Through outdoor adventures and intensive mentoring our TurnAround project in Essex supports the most vulnerable young people in society. We give them a second chance and help them to feel confident making their own decisions and their own life choices. We take them out into nature and help them heal.

Youth wellbeing is at its lowest level for at least eight years (Prince’s Trust Survey 2017). Young people feel that their life will amount to nothing and that they do not have the control to change it.

In the UK, 34% of young people aged between 16-24 are feeling medium to high levels of anxiety throughout the day.

With our TurnAround programme we work with young people who are suffer domestic violence, whose parents are abusing drugs and alcohol and who might have experienced physical or sexual abuse among other life limiting issues – young people who are facing many challenges everyday.
We are supporting these young people to end that cycle of destruction.


Watch us in action

We want to increase self-esteem; support better mental wellbeing and help prevent young people from ending up in the criminal justice system.

The issues that these young people face every day, are not easy fixes. We use the power of nature and intensive specialist one to one support to help promote:

  • Empowerment

  • Responsibility

  • Confidence

  • Teamwork

Our groups are small so that we can provide and the young people can build nurturing support networks with each other. Our TurnAround 13 group has just graduated and we are already looking forward to the next 6 months together with our next group for TurnAround 14; on this journey of self-discovery through nature and weekly mentoring.

We like to keep in contact with as many of our graduates as possible and always look forward to them visiting us with news of their adventures moving forward. We are also there to help any graduates in times of difficulty with support, advice and potential further therapy where needed.

The TurnAround Circle of Courage

The TurnAround project is based upon the philosophy of ‘The Circle of Courage’. Our philosophy is embedded into each part of the programme and reflects four key values of equal dignity, authenticity, integrity and personal responsibility.


New skills like communication, resilience building and activities


Building relationships with family, peers and the environment


What our young people do when they leave our project


How young people support each other and act for others

The Programme

TurnAround begins with a week-long journey in Scotland, Wales or nearer home in Essex whilst restrictions still apply. 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

The wilderness journey is only the beginning…

For the rest of the programme 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 where possible
  • Meet fortnightly with a focus on social skills

Our Impact

We are incredibly proud of what our young people achieve. Over the last 10 years, the University of Essex has evaluated our project from the very beginning and followed up with each participant for three years afterwards.

The independent 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.


of our young people reported increased mental wellbeing


reported an increase in hope after they finished the project


of our graduates enter further education or employment

“It’s (TurnAround) made me the person that I am now… like I set myself bigger goals now than what I would have done, because I know that I’m more than capable, and this has helped me realise that I’m more than capable of pushing myself outside that comfort zone.”

Young person from TurnAround project

Monitoring & Evaluation

Executive summaries of three TurnAround evaluation reports are available for download:

TurnAround was a finalist in ‘The Mental Health and Wellbeing’ category at the Children & Young People Now Awards 2021. Well done also goes to our amazing mentors who were finalists in the ‘Volunteer Team’ category at the Third Sector Awards 2021.

Refer a young person

For further information on our TurnAround programme, please email us or call 0300 123 3073. We are currently able to accommodate two groups of up to 10 students each per year.

To refer a young person to the TurnAround programme, please fill out our referral form and return it by email to info@wildernessfoundation.org.uk Alternatively send the completed hard copy form to our postal address:

TurnAround Referrals:

Wilderness Foundation UK
Trinity House
2 Whitbreads Business Centre
Whitbreads Farm Lane
Chatham Green

Refer a young person >

100% of referral agencies responded that thy would refer again (2016)

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