Young people use nature to turn around their lives
A PROJECT, which uses nature to help young people get their lives back on track, is going from strength to strength thanks to £15,000 funding from the Police & Crime Commissioner.
The Wilderness Foundation’s TurnAround Project, based in Chatham Green, Chelmsford, aims to help young people who have experienced personal or social problems to change their lives.
Aimed at young people aged between 15 and 21 years, the project helps those young people, many of whom are not in education, training or employment and who have been referred by partners such as the Youth Offending Service and Probation. Many of those referred have also led lives touched by drug and alcohol abuse, family breakdowns, domestic violence, low confidence and poor self-esteem.
Through the Wilderness Foundation’s TurnAround project, the youngsters take part in a year-long programme which gets them out into the wilds, with camping and outdoor activities at the organisation’s Chelmsford base and in Scotland. They also enter a programme of monthly workshops supported by the foundation’s mentors and are encouraged to take up volunteering and work placements. At the end of the programme they have the chance to take part in a second wilderness trail and their year culminates with a graduation ceremony where family, friends and social support workers are invited to celebrate the success of their change during the programme.
Lindsay Whitehouse, Deputy Police & Crime Commissioner for Essex, said: “This project is really worthwhile. It uses nature and respect for the environment to help young people that may be at risk of offending or re-offending to get their lives back on track and learn new skills which enhance their employment prospects and enables them to make a positive overall contribution to society.”
Rosie Bonny, Programme coordinator for the TurnAround Project, said: “There generally seems to be a lack of other services out there for young people at the moment especially on a long term basis. What is different about our project is that we work with lots of partners such as Children’s Services, Mental Health services and educational sources to provide better support. The difference you seen in the participants at the end of the programme is so rewarding.”
Brennen, a 17-year-old who is now a peer mentor after graduating last year, said: “I have been involved with the TurnAround project for over a year now. I wasn’t too sure when I first came to the foundation but I gave it a second try and have not looked back since. The programme has really helped my life and made me the person I am today in the space of a year. I am now training to become a plumber and I am Level 1 qualified at the moment. If I was not on the TurnAround programme I do not think I would be in the position I am now, the programme has helped me build my confidence and I am also now a Peer Mentor for the Project.”
Nick, one of the local peer mentor volunteers, said: “I find the programme hugely rewarding to work with young people whose situations can be challenging. It’s great to see them have a real desire to make a positive change to their life.”
The project, which was established in 2007, focuses on risk factors such as truanting, drug and alcohol misuse, anti-Social or offending peers, poor parent child relationships/ supervision, referral to a mental health service or leaving care. It has a track record of 83% of graduates entering further education or employment and young people are tracked for three years. The programme meets key areas of the PCC’s Police and Crime Plan including reducing domestic abuse, tackling youth offending and re-offending, tackling the consequences of drug and alcohol abuse and mental health. It is essential for any community project to demonstrate that it meets key areas of the Police and Crime Plan for it to succeed in securing funding under the PCC’s Community Safety Development Fund (formerly known as the New Initiatives Fund).