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Wilderness Youth Challenge Program (WYCP) Description

Project Snapshot:

Relapse prevention skills, for youth exhibiting high risk behavior, is our primary objective.

The three founding Directors enjoyed a number of years as street youth workers for The Hope Mission Society in the 1990’s and their personal experiences with youth living through multiple relapses were the inspiration for the Wilderness Youth Challenge program – WYCP. Incorporated as a charitable organization in 2006 WYCP accepts youth between the ages of 12 to 18 to participate in a volunteer initiative, no fee for service, ten-day wilderness experience focused on building increased self-esteem and positive decision making skills that support relapse prevention, that being a return to the high risk behavior they have associated with prior to their experience with WYCP. Two to four ten-day challenges are delivered each season for 5 to 8 youth, most are referrals from Partner Agencies and Community Workers. Donations are applied to each youth as a ‘Sponsorship’ and whenever possible we have this support recognized by the youth in the way of Appreciation Letters they write for their graduation exercise.

Project Rationale – Why?

Currently the rate of relapse amongst youth exhibiting high risk behavior is virtually 100% and has become a predisposed condition commonly required before professional services can be brought in to help. Compounding this common issue is a lack of specific resources targeting relapse prevention available to our youth, no other preemptive approaches towards relapse have been identified leaving little or no resources available for youth to build relapse prevention skills prior to the event happening other than their personal experiences.

By exposing these youth to the wilderness in this positive manner success has been realized through both increased self-esteem and positive decision making, both are a direct result of the environment we use to deliver this program. Nature and youth have always been seen as a winning combination, many of the treatment initiatives presently offered wholly support wilderness activities but cannot establish or fund them as part of their mandates. WYCP is not structured as a treatment initiative but rather as a support for the providers of those programs as well. This approach lends us an opportunity to expose the youth to an experience unlike conventional treatment initiatives while supporting those same efforts. Risk Management is our focus while we utilize LNT principles to teach respect for the environment while building the youth’s self-esteem and positive decision making skills

Project Activities – How?

WYCP is unique in that we do take youth into back country areas for ten days to camp but that is where the similarity to other camp style programs ends. We do not entertain any activities like hiking, canoeing, crafts or games and are considered a Level 1 (minimal risk) outdoor activity that would be considered terribly boring for most youth groups. Rather we establish a working camp, fully outfitted where there is a common purpose to train for a four-day solo experience. We introduce everyone on a surname basis and develop a level of common respect and expectations between the volunteers and the youth. We try not to accept youth familiar with each other so the lack of familiarity helps in this process as well. As a group we buck into an un-serviced public access area and establish a base camp where each person is placed in their own tent site at the onset. The next four days we deliver a Wilderness First Aid course, Predator Awareness and LNT (Leave No Trace) courses for the entire group, during this time the youth receive a constant stream of gear items to round out their own personal kit which provides for all their needs, we do not entertain any 'survival' initiatives. On the fifth day, those who choose to carry on are placed in solo sites approximately a kilometer apart and they start their four days alone with a daily curriculum to follow. The last day we recover them and spend our last night in Base camp enjoying our grads experiences and grading their curriculum results.

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