Our programmes take young people on a journey of personal change that results in them continuing to higher education, gaining employability skills, making a contribution to their community and being more aware of the environment locally and internationally.
Our approach relies on the premise that it is by doing that confidence grows and learning is reinforced. The change our beneficiaries experience is rooted within; we rely heavily on first-hand experience to introduce, educate and reinforce the key learnings of the programme. Providing our beneficiaries the opportunity to explore and experiment with new topics and skills gives them the chance to figure things out for themselves and consequently to believe in their own abilities
The differences we make in our young people are:
- A positive experience of community service and volunteering – Young people gain understanding of how communities working together can make positive changes. By volunteering in local community projects young people see the impact it makes and meet others who volunteer regularly. They devise and lead their own project that requires them to get others involved and committed – often harder than they think. Many young people continue to be involved in community or campaigning activity after the programme because they know it can make a difference and are confident about the contribution they can make.
“I feel like as a consequence of this, one person can make a massive difference, so I am more inspired to do more projects and take part in more community activities.” Ella 2012
- Increased self-confidence and self esteem – following a series of challenging projects that help them learn about their strengths and weaknesses and gain a sense of practical achievement. These are softer outcomes and although harder to measure we think they underpin many of the changes we want to see young people make in their lives.
“I’ve learnt that I am capable of more than I thought.” Ivan 2010
- Development of leadership and team working skills – young people learn to problem solve and how to work with others. They must plan and lead their own project and inspire others to get involved and get feedback throughout. Challenging group activities in the UK (as well as during Keystones) test these skills. They volunteer on community projects where they work as part of a team. Those who complete the programme have an opportunity to take part in a challenging field trip, Keystones, where they take turns leading the group, and where being a good team member is key to the success of a group wilderness trail. We expect them to demonstrate the skills they have learnt.
“Learning to work effectively in a team was definitely a highlight for me.” Martin, 2011
- Development of professional skills – such as project planning, budgeting, communication, interviewing and presentation skills, these come just in time to help with university and job applications. With the support of their mentor young people will learn how to write a CV, and a university application and will get feedback on how they present themselves. Monthly sessions include presentations from young people about their projects where they will be supported to plan and execute their projects. We focus on young people acquiring practical skills like communication, presentation and project planning.
“My life completely changed, I went from hanging around street corners with no plan and little ambition yet now I own my own business and go to university.” Sam 2008
- Increased knowledge of environmental and conservations issues – young people experience the impact projects can make in urban and rural environments and learn how issues are tackled in practice. The monthly sessions include input about environmental and conservation issues from experts and professionals; they learn how this is put into practice in UK community projects. The South Africa component, Keystones, includes a conservation component where they complete voluntary conservation work in a game reserve.
“There aren’t many women who find themselves involved in nature conservation, so I want to be one of the women who can make a difference.” Hope 2007
- Increased focus and direction – young people are supported by mentors to expand their horizons and plan their future whether at university or employment. Teachers have reported improved application and attainment at school. Many young people say they chose their course because of their clouddog experience. The practical projects enable young people to gain a sense of achievement and be proud of what they and others have achieved together. They discover that what they do can make a difference; we use this to motivate them to focus on their own futures. The mentors support them to think about and plan their futures, and to consider options they may not have considered, known about or thought was within their reach. Many start to consider careers that are related to environmental or conservation issues and others careers such as nursing and medicine. The young people often return to school more determined to do well so they can move forward with their plans.
“I’ve realised how much I underestimated myself. I put myself down too much and this experience has shown me that I am a lot better than I first thought”. Simone 2007
Through the first-hand experience of the individual environmental projects and the Community Acts as well as the monthly sessions, we aspire to lay the foundation for active, engaged citizens. By this we hope to inspire regular contribution to the community and deepen understanding of environmental and conservation issues in such a way that motivates action, be it on the individual level or in the community. Many of our alumni cite a sense of greater inclusion in the community after the clouddog experience, coupled with a sense that they “really can make a difference” no matter how small or localised. These claims are evidenced by their own voluntary projects or involvement in local efforts.