VIA’s Outdoor Activities, Expeditions and Events element is an innovative, hands-on, approach to leadership initiative, personal growth, group dynamics, and expedition education. This tested and proven approach based on Wilderness and Adventure Therapy, including studies by Doctor Simon Crisp in Australia, has been designed specifically for young people.
However, this accommodates many of the similar conditions we find in VIA with service personnel suffering from PTSD as well as those who have found the transition to civilian life difficult and it works to help rebuild the veteran’s confidence, self-esteem and self-belief. VIA did not design wilderness therapy. Instead, we took a working model from a structured and proven academic study, adapted the findings into what VIA did design, the ALIVE Program.
Throughout all Outdoor Activities, Expeditions and Events, VIA Team Members and Support Team encourage those veterans taking part to use the environment and experience to learn about themselves and as an active member of a team, to refresh old skills, learn new skills and to relearn old skill sets such as self-awareness, time management, and group dynamics. VIA’s challenging Outdoor Activities, Expeditions and Events provide a platform for veterans to achieve with opportunities to learn, teach, and lead in short and long distance walks over the diverse countryside and National Trails in the UK. All of these valuable skills are directly transferable to the day to day life of the veteran.
The Outdoor Activities, Expeditions and Events promote self-discovery through goal-oriented, solution-based approaches to personal challenges and are designed for veterans before, during and after any therapy or welfare needs they may have and to help those who may have lost direction and purpose and have a desire to grow far beyond what they believe they can accomplish, finding a deeper meaning and purpose in their lives.
What a veteran can learn from participation on VIA Outdoor Activities, Expeditions or Events
Rediscovering Self/Others Respect – mutual respect, found through rapport, is the foundation for developing positive, communicative relationships within the Outdoor Activities Expeditions and Events which can then be transferred to the community at large and is the basis of all that VIA do.
Ownership – the physical and mental well-being of all veterans participating is directly related to all Outdoor Activities, Expeditions and Events success. Mutual support helps each person accomplish their individual achievement and goals.
Contribution – each and every veteran actively contributes to the accomplishments of all Outdoor Activities, Expeditions or Events. Ownership, responsibility and accountability are some of the outcomes, VIA are noticing.
Help/ Becoming a team member again (self-esteem) – help others and accept help. Outdoor Activities, Expeditions and Events move only as fast as the slowest person in the team. Recognizing and accepting different abilities and fitness levels, assisting others veterans with the day to day challenges, helping to set up a camp, learn relearn or teach an essential skill.
Motivation, decision making, self-convincing, time management – remaining positive in challenging situations and participating with enthusiasm are key elements of all VIA Outdoor Activities, Expeditions and Events mentality and to transfer this to daily life.
VIA’s Outdoor Activities, Expeditions and Events are a personal choice. They are challenging both mentally and physically, involve being part of a team and maximum participation depending on abilities or physical injuries. Veterans taking part must make an informed decision to commit to the outdoor activity, expedition or event — to be active participants for their own personal growth. To help realise that commitment, VIA Team Members and Support Team build a framework for open communication within the team and those veterans taking part.
VIA Outdoor Activities, Expeditions and Events are a non- therapy process and instead use the initial rapport of veterans working with veterans to build trust between the VIA Team and those veterans taking part. This alone allows many barriers to be broken down very quickly and veterans taking part recognise the language and banter around camp as something they recognise from their time in the services.
On long distance Expeditions VIA normally get veterans working in pairs and each day they walk with a different person. This allows participants to form relationships with everyone taking part that will become part of their support network in the future and to learn from each other throughout the expedition. VIA Team Members encourage participants to recognise where they are on each day of walking and to brief and debrief each day to share the value of each day’s efforts.
The Outdoor Activities, Expeditions and Events experience is life changing and through exciting outdoor adventures and experiential learning can enable veterans to develop a firm foundation of confidence, self-esteem and personal leadership. After completing an expedition, veterans are then supported and advised on a pathway to enable to get the help they may need whether it be therapy or welfare needs and can come away with some or all of the following:
- Sense of accomplishment
- Higher self esteem
- Positive behavioural changes
- Strengthened family systems
- Decreased depression
- Problem solving skills
- Better judgement and decision making
- Increased interpersonal skills
- Leadership development
- Increased self-awareness
All of these outcomes equal ownership which is difficult to find, let alone own, without support.