Back in action!
This year has taken us all by surprise and had a huge impact on the programme we could run. Determined to continue supporting our young people, we’ve been adaptive, inventive and committed to reaching out to them in as many ways as we can through remote mentoring, challenges and projects, and with great success.
Over the October half term however, we were excited to be able to get back to doing what we love best; working directly with our young people and inspiring them to take part in a whole host of activities. Across 11 adventurous days run right across Wiltshire and Swindon, we gave our young people a much-needed opportunity to get out in nature, work with new people, volunteer locally and challenge themselves.
As you can imagine running our activity days in the current climate threw up some interesting challenges! We had to adapt many of the activities we usually run to fit in with government and National Youth Agency guidance, following strict protocols and risk assessments. Throughout the week our young people showed great maturity and understanding in helping us to work within these guidelines.
Despite these enforced changes, the young people, volunteers, and staff alike enjoyed the days immensely. Here are just a few stories from an epic week of fun!
We spent four days at Wiltshire Wildlife Trust sites across the county, having lots of fun, learning new skills, and contributing valuable work in creating and maintaining habitats for wildlife. Our young people got the opportunity to learn new skills including pollarding and ancient fencing techniques. They also tried their hands at Willow weaving, fire lighting, whittling and raft building.
Two fantastic days were spent at a local activity centre where young people had the chance to try activities such as archery and tree climbing, whilst honing their map reading skills to navigate to a host of other woodland games and challenges.
Across another five action packed days we saw our young people excel in a wide range of challenges. In an autumnal woodland, they worked in teams, using GPS devices to find games and puzzles hidden in the woods. At another site the young people utilised their map skills to get to challenges dotted across the venue, earning points in everything from ‘extreme fishing’ to assault courses.
With some challenging weather across the half term, our young people – and volunteers! – showed amazing resilience to keep the smiles on their faces and challenge themselves in so many ways.
After such a uniquely demanding year for everyone – not least our young people – it was really valuable to see them face to face again. Although we have had online contact with many of them, it felt great to get outdoors once more, creating opportunities for our young people to challenge themselves and take part in adventures. The week was full of achievements and really showed that the Trust’s commitment to supporting our young people, regardless of the challenging environment 2020 has created, means the world to the young people we work with and truly changes lives.
“I started doing video calls then something happened with my mum…the video calls helped. It just helped me get out my feelings, telling Youth Adventure how I felt… since I got to do the calls I felt less stressed…they helped me to learn to express my feelings more. Youth Adventure Trust helped me express my feelings when I couldn’t tell other people” Jack, age 13yrs.
Giving an ‘adventure vaccine’ to young people
As Youth Adventure Trust Chief Executive, I recently caught up with one of our Ambassadors, Alastair Humphreys, for his Living Adventurously podcast, to share how we provide an ‘adventure vaccine’ to vulnerable young people – giving them resilience to face the challenges in their lives.
As well as talking about my adventurous childhood spent outdoors, I explain how important it is for me to continue stepping out of my comfort zone and tackle things that are more difficult than I imagine I’m capable of. I feel that this approach embodies the ethos of Youth Adventure Trust, and by stretching other people through adventure, YAT is giving an ‘adventure vaccine’ to young people – developing resilience, mental toughness and the skills they need for life.
I share with listeners how the long-term programme focuses on developing those crucial life skills through outdoor adventures, and the difference the Youth Adventure Programme has made to some of the young people we work with. The key to delivering all of this is thanks to people: the operations staff who develop and deliver the adventure Programme, the fundraising team who connect with our funders and donors, and the amazing volunteers who give up their time to inspire the young people.
Link to listen: https://share.transistor.fm/s/e775046e
Living Adventurously, with Alastair Humphreys, highlights stories of ordinary people choosing to live extraordinary lives so it’s a real honour to be featured among them! Al interviews artists and chefs, students and pensioners, athletes and travellers. He wants to discover what living adventurously means to different people, what universal obstacles stand in the way, and how each of these people took the first step to overcome them and begin their own fascinating journeys.
Overcoming the challenges of Covid-19
Since the Covid-19 pandemic began, we have been working hard behind the scenes to make sure that we can continue to support the young people on our programme. We have been busy looking at the role we can play and putting the necessary support systems in place.
We are really pleased that the 13 existing mentoring partnerships between a young person and volunteer mentor have been able to move to online remote sessions. Video calls which incorporate interactive challenges, games and one to one discussion have proven to be a successful alternative to face to face meetings, and are providing these vulnerable young people with some much needed support and continuity during these difficult times.
We have used our existing Mentoring Scheme as the basis for the bespoke, virtual, one to one mentoring support we intend to offer to other young people on the programme instead of the usual camps and activity days, which have been postponed until next year. This will allow our dedicated team to continue to give the young people the tools to make positive decisions, develop confidence and build resilience to face not only the Coronavirus crisis, but also the other challenges that they still have to overcome in their daily lives.
Over the course of the next few weeks, our staff team and volunteer mentors will begin to invite the first group of 40 young people to take part in regular online mentoring sessions. Sessions will be held fortnightly for an hour and will be structured to help each young person get the maximum benefit from the time.
As resources allow, we will offer this support out to more young people, with the help of our specially trained volunteers. In addition, we will facilitate some small group discussions. These will provide a safe online environment for positive social interaction and allow the young people to nurture the friendships they have made during their time on the programme. Until then, everybody can access our Isolation Motivation webpage which is packed with suggestions, ideas and advice to help during this extremely challenging time.
Later on in the year, once government restrictions have been lifted and our financial situation allows, we will move some online mentoring sessions to face to face meetings. If we can secure the necessary funding, we also hope to be able to offer a number of group activity day sessions. These will be a much needed opportunity for the young people to reconnect, experience positive activities outside the home again and resume their YAT adventures.
All things being well, we will resume our normal programme of camps and activity days next year, when we will be very much looking forward to some outdoor adventures.