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Building skills & confidence in the great outdoors



Curo Learning & Development Worker Ed Ascott reflects on the positive power of three days of outdoor adventure… and limited sleep.

In April Curo’s Working Well team took ten of our clients to Goblin Combe, 130 acres of beautiful woodland in the heart of Somerset. Most of the young people who came on this residential trip live in Curo’s Pathways and Foyer projects – schemes that provide a stable and supportive home for people who’ve often had a tough start to life, many having faced homelessness.

We wanted to give them the opportunity to get out into the woods and enjoy some physical exercise, the beauty of the natural world and an experience of working together they may not have experienced before.

Our aim was to boost the confidence and skills of the young people who came and to have quality time together to better understand and support them to progress and succeed in life.

The group travelled down through beautiful Somerset countryside watching the teeming rain through the minibus window with a surprising amount of good humour. On arrival we settled in to the bunkhouse quickly and got on with the first task: a short 10km walk around the woodland to orientate ourselves.

Activities started that afternoon, all based in the woodland. First a short session on fire lighting and fire management (essential when cooking outdoors) and then a team assault course, complete with muddy puddles you could lose a small car in. We were really impressed with how all the group got stuck in to these challenges and started to work together as a team.

Rising early the next day we were found that most teenagers find it best to sleep between 6am and 9am but, with a little light persuasion, they can be encouraged into readiness.

The second day saw us head back into the woods to learn orienteering skills. Again, the group was great... really engaged as we spent the day romping around the woodland, learning map skills by the fire and playing games designed to improve problem-solving and teamwork skills.

That evening we led a session on outdoor cooking, using the fire skills learned the day before. We sat and reflected on the last two days as a group and ceremonially charred burgers and sausages in celebration of the group’s achievements. Everything tastes better cooked on an open fire, and after experiencing success.

The last day was sunny and clear, and we all agreed it was a shame that it would soon be time to go. But before that: archery! The group got a bit Robin of Sherwood, shooting at barrels from a range of distances and even trying to hit an apple at 10 metres. The morning culminated with a challenge in teams of three, putting to use skills learned during the week, including archery. By this stage a healthy competitive spirit meant that everyone wanted to win and the good natured banter of the winners, and sheer indignation of the losers, was worth all of the sleep deprivation.

It wasn’t all fun and games, we gave the young people targets to stretch themselves and they rose to meet those challenges. At the end of the week we asked students for feedback and 90% said they’d learned new skills, 60% felt more positive about their future and 80% told us they’re now more confident following their adventure. I’m really proud of the way they applied themselves and treated each other, staff, instructors and the environment respectfully.

Click here to find out more about the Curo Working Well service which arranged this trip and provides wide-ranging support for young people looking to improve their employability and wellbeing.

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