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Jo's Into the Wild Weekend!

Last year I was introduced to YesFutures a charity that works with both primary and secondary students to help them build their confidence, resilience, communication and self-awareness skills. This is done through one on one coaching sessions, a group community responsibility day, a world of work day and a three day residential weekend at a PGL activity centre. The change in the students who attend this programme is phenomenal, quiet ones gain a voice; anxious ones gain skills to assist them in working through their anxiety; over energetic/challenging students become more aware of their behaviour and use the skills they are shown to adjust to their surroundings and be more self-aware.

On Friday 18th May, I drove 75 miles to Hindhead, Surrey arriving at 13.30 in time to meet the children not long after they arrived by coach. The first thing we do is get into groups which we stay with all weekend for each activity. The first activity is getting to know you. We played human knot, it’s like a human twister, you stand in a circle and put both hands out, each hand is held by a different person you then have to unravel without letting go of any one’s hand. It’s a great icebreaker as the children are all mixed from different schools and have different abilities.

Over the weekend they do six different activities, giant swing, buggy building, rock climbing, orienteering and problem solving and archery.

Now let me tell you about my experience with giant swing last year, two people are in a harness and the rest of the team pull them up to 50 feet and then one of them pulls a rope that sets off the swing. Last year a student asked me to go on with them and this is how it went:-

William: Miss will you come on with me, I don’t want to go to the top.

Me: Yes of course William (thinking in the back of my mind oh why me)

Halfway up, where I think we are going to stop, William announces:

William: Miss I am going to show resilience and go right to the top.

Me: Amazing William so proud of you (at this point my heart came up into my mouth).

So I was flung at goodness knows what speed, into the air and I made the most awful noise which sounded like an injured animal, but I can assure you I had no control over it. The students thought it was hilarious. I did not think it was hilarious when William decided he would like to do it again and as it takes a while to get you strapped into the equipment, if you want to go twice it has to be one after the other. So up I went again and again out came the injured animal.

These weekends are full on, have you ever tried to get 55 students to bed when they are full of excitement and mischief, its hard work. On Friday there were a couple of rooms that were still making noise and talking after lights out and silence at 09.30. So it was a late night for us all as after the students are all in bed we then reflect on the day as a team and discuss individual students who are struggling and might need more support.

On Saturday morning one of our students decided to wake up at 5.00 and play knock down ginger and wake everyone else on the ground floor so it was an early start for us all. Saturday night was a different story there was no noise or talking after 10.00 and the little darlings were still all asleep when I woke at 6.30 as they had all burnt themselves out.

The students learn a lot about themselves over the weekend, for some of them this is their first time away from home and for others it’s their first time out of London. To see how they progress from being strangers to being a team and looking out for each other is so emotional at times that it brings me to tears. Everyone says the students get so much from these weekends but I get just as much out of it as they do. Working with some of the students that have behavioural problems is what brings me the most reward, trying to find a way to help them express themselves in different ways and also trying to read and understand their needs and perspective of things. As no child is the same I am learning all the time and have the best role models to support me within the YesFutures team.

There are many examples of what makes me support these weekends, but one of the ones that will stay with me always is when one of the students who had been moved around several foster homes told me I should be a foster mum as I would be good at it. This student does not announce to people that he is fostered so for him to open up to me and say I get him and would be a good foster mum tells me I have made an impact and I hope memories that will stay with him always just to know even for a short space of time that someone cared and listened to him.

I don’t know how you feel but I am so grateful for the carefree childhood I had, being given the opportunity to explore safely, find my own boundaries and take my own risks. I don’t feel children nowadays always have that opportunity as today life is filled with a lot more challenges.

I will be going into the wild again in June this time with 150-170 secondary school children eeeeekkkkkkk no seriously, I can’t wait.

Please take a moment to look up YesFutures to see what an amazing difference they are making to young students lives.

P.S If anyone wants to know how to do the Floss dance please let me know. Over the weekend I have been tutored by over 20 students and am told I am really good at it although I am not planning any dance offs in the near future.

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