Camp changes young lives
The developer of a youth life change program in the Grampians believes a successful pilot camp has reinforced the need for short-term intensive programs in the region.
Former alcohol and other drug counsellor Brendan Scale said the holistic Wilderness Survival Adventure Program aimed to equip struggling youth with personal skills and tools to manage life more effectively.
The program was created by his family’s not-for-profit organisation Delhuntie Youth Care.
Mr Scale adapted the program for the Grampians and was thrilled with the result.
“It did confirm for me what our service has known for a long time, there is a big need for short-term, intense programs,” he said.
“After our five-day camp, one comment I made to parents when we dropped the kids off on the Friday was, prepare for your kid to be different now. One mum said straight away, ‘I can see he’s different already’.
“So they can see, okay, young Johnny is still going to have his issues in life, but that one week has helped them reset where he is going and what his priorities are.”
The program is for young people aged 12 to 20 and is designed to help participants uncover their pain, hurt and frustrations and learn ways to deal with them constructively.
Horsham’s Leon Lofthouse, 19, was one of 16 participants of the Grampians WASP experience.
Leon said it was amazing to see people come such a long way in such a short period of time.
He said he was apprehensive about attending the camp, however, he quickly formed a bond with his fellow participants.
“Taking the time to get to know them and talk to them helped build trust,” he said.
“I learnt that it’s important to get to know people and not just treating them by the way they look – not judging a book by its cover.”
The camp is based on adventure therapy and included hiking, trust-building activities and challenges to push participants outside their comfort zone.
An early activity involved climbing the Pinnacle from Halls Gap.
“We walked about 10 kilometres,” Leon said.
“At first I didn’t want to do it. I kept stopping and going again. Then, it was mind over matter. I kept telling myself I could do it. I’d never been to the top before. The view was great.”
Leon said participants also had to free jump from a tree wearing a harness.
“That was pretty scary – I’m scared of heights,” he said.
“I learnt that I could jump even though I was scared. I learnt I wasn’t going to die.”
A key part of the program is a ‘hurts’ session, enabling the young people to share their stories.
“Fun is the vehicle for the week, but underneath there is very much a therapeutic process,” Mr Scale said.
“The hurts session was hard. People like Leon and three or four others had pretty much never told their story to anyone before. It took so much courage to share just how shattered their lives had been.
“One kid had a dad who had been abusing him. His dad died and he was relieved to put it to rest.
“Another was on the run from family violence for many years. “It’s huge emotional stuff.” At the end of the session, participants release their anger by smashing an old car.
“Rightfully so, the kids are angry all this stuff has happened to them,” Mr Scale said.
“Thankfully wreckers donated a car to give the kids an opportunity to express themselves and what has happened to them.”
Leon said he encouraged other young people to attend future camps.
“It’s amazing how much people actually do change in just five days,” he said.
“I didn’t even want to go on it and then I changed my mind – and I’m glad I did. It’s helped me out heaps, with my anxiety and depression and things like that.”
Mr Scale thanked Drew Heard for donating a bus for the program.
“Thanks also to the community members who donated money towards it, because that enabled six kids to come who wouldn’t have been able to come otherwise,” he said.
Mr Scale said he hoped to run another WASP camp next year.
“It looks like there’s enough demand,” he said.
“Funding will be the big issue. If any community members want to donate they are welcome to get in touch with me.”
People can call Mr Scale on 0448 816 695 or email delhuntie01@ gmail.com to inquire about the camp or becoming a sponsor.
People can also search www.delhuntie.org.au for more information. Ararat and Stawell Archers has a new defibrillator and training package from the State Government to help it deal with emergencies.
Member for Western Victoria Jaala Pulford said the club would receive the package from a Defibrillators for Sporting Clubs and Facilities Program.
THERAPEUTIC: Participants in a Wilderness Survival Adventure Program at Halls Gap used adventure-based therapy as part of a groundbreaking life change program.