En­gag­ing youth with ad­ven­ture ther­apy

The Leader (Nelson) - - FRONT PAGE - SARA MEIJ

A new ad­ven­ture ther­apy course is kick­ing off in Nel­son with 10 days of to­tal im­mer­sion in Kahu­rangi Na­tional Park.

Af­ter a year of plan­ning and train­ing, or­gan­iser Richard Wilkins is in­tro­duc­ing Nel­son youth to the ini­tia­tive dur­ing the first course from Au­gust 28 to Septem­ber 7.

Wilkins trav­elled to the United States last year Au­gust on a pres­ti­gious Full­bright-Meg Ever­ton Pro­fes­sional En­hance­ment Award in Ed­u­ca­tion with the goal of bring­ing his ex­pe­ri­ence back to the ‘‘small but ex­pand­ing’’ com­mu­ni­ties of ad­ven­ture ther­a­pists across New Zealand.

An ed­u­ca­tion part­ner­ships co­or­di­na­tor at Nel­son Marl­bor­ough In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy (NMIT), Wilkins re-trained as a guid­ance coun­sel­lor af­ter three decades work­ing as a phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion teacher.

Now, with the back­ing of a gov­ern­ment schol­ar­ship, he’s hop­ing to com­bine the two as ad­ven­ture ther­apy.

Ad­ven­ture ther­apy - where coun­selling for trou­bled young peo­ple is cou­pled with out­door pur­suits such as tramp­ing, kayak­ing or horserid­ing – is pro­vided by youth trusts such as Ad­ven­ture De­vel­op­ment and St John of God Waipuna Trust in South­land and Can­ter­bury, and is now a course at Ara In­sti­tute of Can­ter­bury.

Wilkins said the Whenua Iti Out­doors course he led is the first in the re­gion and the only one of its for­mat na­tion­ally.

The 10-day course in Kahu­rangi Na­tional Park in­cludes a dig­i­tal de­tox and ‘‘leav­ing be­hind the prob­lems and pres­sures of modern life’’.

Wilkins said all nine sec­ondary schools in the Nel­son/ Tas­man area were of­fered the chance to nom­i­nate a few of their stu­dents for one spot on the course, and Wilkins and his team then in­ter­viewed the stu­dents and made the fi­nal de­ci­sion.

He said the course was heav­ily sub­sidised but the school or stu­dent needed to make a $100 con­tri­bu­tion.

The course was an op­por­tu­nity for par­tic­i­pants to re-en­gage with learn­ing while im­mersed in na­ture.

‘‘You are tak­ing young peo­ple out into the out­doors and you’re us­ing the chal­leng­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties they may come across to de­velop trust and self-es­teem.

‘‘Par­tic­u­larly some of the more trou­bled peo­ple, that ac­tual out­door ex­pe­ri­ence can be a lifechang­ing one. For some, it can be a cat­a­lyst for mov­ing for­ward and de­vel­op­ing cop­ing skills.’’

He en­joyed help­ing young peo­ple to de­velop a ‘‘sense of self’’.

‘‘And also to give them the op­por­tu­nity to ex­pe­ri­ence the power of spend­ing time in the out­doors.’’

VIR­GINIA WOOLF/ THE LEADER

Richard Wilkins, pic­tured here at Whenua Iti, is or­gan­is­ing the first ad­ven­ture ther­apy course in Nel­son.

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