1. Outreach Component
Outreach Work is facilitated via a range of events undertaken with the primary aim of identifying potential service users and is carried out by VIA Volunteers, many of whom joined our ranks as clients. Membership is solely dependent on service and therein open to all Armed Forces Personnel, Veterans and their dependants. Our outreach agenda rests on a range of community based activities designed as suggested, to identify potential service users and further develop a sense of belonging and camaraderie within our existing membership.
The key to our success in relation to identifying potential members focuses on the deployment and development of a community presence, thus being seen in the community as helping agents, each a Veteran, each with similar life-experience, enhancing opportunities for initial contact to be facilitated. In order to create an authentic base to our services we overtly employ fundraising as a key activity, designed to attract those in need, whilst enabling volunteers to purposefully contribute to their organisation.
Fundraising also offers a real sense of participation, which demands a degree of both mutual cooperation and responsibility to our community. From the point where an individual has been identified, members of our Regional Teams will establish and maintain contact with the Veteran, offering home-visits and further opportunities to participate in the activities of the organisation. Participation facilitates our need to create an enabling platform, offering the Veteran an opportunity to modify existing behaviours and begin to develop in a sense, a more optimistic outlook through participation, integration, and affiliation.
In essence, we seek to restore notions of self-respect, confidence, trust, and the self-reliance Veterans would have developed whilst in service. The initial work undertaken centres on life and communication skills, leading to more complex work focused on personal growth and community engagement. Essentially, we ensure support is offered throughout the period of restoration, from service user to proactive team member and on to valued member of society.
2. Adventurous Activities Component
Adventure and Wilderness Therapy centres the creation of learning opportunities designed to enable self-exploration to occur within an unknown environment through the pursuit of adventurous activities. We conduct such activities in group situations, through traditional outdoor activities;
“increasingly adventure therapy is being used with individuals who experience confidence problems often resulting in social isolation” (Parker, 1992; Ziven, 1988).
Adventure Therapy (AT) approaches the psychosocial treatment of Veterans via the development of existing knowledge in tandem with the practical accomplishments gained following pre-set tasks of varying difficulty. At the centre of these mutually supportive activities lie elements of trust activities, problem solving, a sense of adventure, and outdoor activity. VIA believe that the AT event must centre on real notions of physical achievement and to a degree hardship, which will in turn enhance levels of participant authenticity as a result of such perceived challenges and effort.
Our challenges have been designed to provoke appropriate amounts of effort based on individual ability, but more importantly, through group participation elicit the desired behavioural change. We contend that where positive behaviours are evidenced resulting from an activity, that such change can be linked to a degree with the restoration of more positive notions of self. Therein transference of learning from a specific concrete experience can be relocated to other local settings and the activities of daily life.
“Establishing lucid connections between the activities undertaken in the outdoor environment and local or home setting is enabled through the ‘structure of framing and delivery of activity” (Bacon, 1983; Gillis, 2000; Parker, 1992).
Framing is in essence concerned with the creation of a hypothetical situation, expressed as tasks, or a series of activities that relate to a targeted personal difficulty in an effort to confront and work through the problem in a safe and supported environment.
Each task includes a period of debriefing, which for many is a familiar process; the experience being discussed either during or after the event has taken place.
“Such activity compliments front loading wherein the opportunity to concentrate on the pros and cons of a given activity and individual or group performance, can become established practice” (Weinberg, 2002)
Front loading seriously diminishes the individuals need to bottle up concerns or antipathy at an early stage, thus complimenting group cohesion, the individuals sense of inclusion and sense of importance as an empowered “Team Member“.
“Adventure Therapy encompasses a variety of techniques, operationalised in an equally diverse variety of environments, conceived in order to elicit change. These might include team sport, problem solving scenarios, confidence-building activities, and a range of adventurous training pursuits such as rock climbing, abseiling, or mountaineering; and more protracted expedition work typified by hill walking expeditions, canoeing, sailing and so forth (Gass, 1993; Itin, 1995) conducted over longer periods”.
“Adventure Therapy in the form of expeditions and walks requiring camping are the most common forms of adventure therapy (Gass, 1993)”.
VIA as an organisation, have developed our own unique Program called ALIVE based on the studies into Adventure and Wilderness Therapy which include a Centre Based Element and Outdoor Element with veterans participating on ALIVE encouraged to take part on fund raising events as a way of engaging with the public within their immediate community and in different areas around the country. This enables local veterans from one locale to meet and discuss the organisation and its merits with individuals from other areas of the UK, already embarked on their own expeditions.