Whenua Iti Oudoors Trust is dedicated to providing opportunities for learning and development in the outdoors, particularly for youth that struggle in the typical school environment. The programmes on offer allows for people to reconnect with nature, to switch off from technology and to challenge themselves to grow and develop.
Groups of about fourteen undertake the programme which focuses on young people learning self-reliance, showing initiative, problem solving, developing communication skills and taking responsibility for their own actions.
Over the years instructor Dougal has used the wilderness as a lever for change in young people’s lives and says witnessing the change after completing the programme is the best part for him. “You see the best and the worst as part of the process but the majority of kids emerge fitter and healthier, with a new respect for their own ability and that of their peers.”
For his part Dougal says he gains as much as his pupils by being able to do what he loves each day, connecting with nature and sharing his learnings with others. “Teaching this programme makes you stop, and evaluate your own set of values and behaviours. Watching these kids, who start out as strangers, become a team gives me both faith in humanity and a sense of hope.”
Dougal says there are many stories of those who have attended the programme which have really stuck with him. “One young fella who attended the Junior Programme was all over the show, exhibiting strong anti-social behaviour and determined to alienate himself from other group members.”
The same boy has gone to complete seven journey programmes at Whenua-Iti and is now about to head to University to study engineering, along with being a competitive mountain biker.
“It’s just been astonishing and awesome to watch the change in him,” says Dougal, “He has come a long way. It’s the best feeling to watch kids who have really lost their way, come here form friendships, become leaders and most of all find their voice and their passion.
He believes the ripple effect from the programme extends into the wider community as these young people come away feeling better about themselves, improving their chances of reaching their full potential in the future.