By Lee Pinkerton
University of East London (UEL) students are taking ‘disengaged’ young people from their home environments to the wilds of Scotland this summer to help them to turn their lives around.
The six UEL students are accompanying the youngsters on a series of treks in the Scottish Highlands, each lasting between four and seven days.
Two treks have already taken place and four more are scheduled for the spring and summer.
All of the youngsters are facing difficult challenges in life such as disaffection and bleak prospects and are being offered encouragement and mentoring by the UEL students.
The project is part of UEL’s London Scholars research programme and is being carried out in partnership with the Wilderness Foundation – a charity that uses physical activity in the great outdoors to help transform people’s lives.
The benefits of physical exercise are well known but research has also shown that exercising outside in green spaces can bring even wider benefits such as relieving stress, building confidence and improving mental wellbeing.
The UEL students, all of whom studying subjects related to Applied Sport and Exercise Science, have undergone accredited mentorship training to help the young people get the most out of their wilderness experience.
It is hoped that once the young people, are brought closer to nature they will have the chance to reflect on their lives and look at potential ways of taking a more constructive direction.
One of the UEL students who has already been on the trek is second year Sport, PE and Development student Dominic Stevens. He accompanied a group of youngsters from east London and Essex and saw at first-hand the benefits of swapping the hustle and bustle of the urban environment for the tranquillity of nature.
“A couple of the young people on the trek refused to hand over their mobile phones,” said Dominic, “even though there was no reception!
“But once we got out there, they never even touched them. They had the time and space to think about their problems and they became noticeably calmer.”
As well as mentoring the young people, the students will undertake research projects to examine the long-term impact of previous treks.