In 2021 we received a letter from Ben, a young person who had been on our Youth Adventure Programme from 2016 to 2018. A few years after finishing he took the time to get in touch with us and reflect on his experiences. An outstanding journey of self discovery that continues to evolve. He was happy to share his letter and his story so far;
After reading the letter we were keen to have a chat with Ben to hear more about how he was doing and the impact his experiences with YAT had on him. Ben went on to tell us;
“I’ve recently been applying to universities and YAT really helped me with my personal statement. Being able to think back about my time with the Youth Adventure Trust and then writing about the incredible experiences I had with you really brought my personal statement to life.
Time has moved on and a lot has happened in the world, and for me personally, since I took part in the Youth Adventure Programme. I often think back to my time on the programme and it makes me feel proud, I’ve taken some positive and fond memories from my experiences”.
We asked Ben about the lasting benefits of taking part;
“I can honestly say that my confidence and resilience grew beyond anything I thought possible as a direct result of my experiences with YAT. When I started the programme I was 11 years old. I was quiet, shy, worried, lacking in confidence and I felt like I didn’t really fit in at school. My anxiety was constantly getting the better of me and I found myself asking questions all the time. I needed to know what was happening because if plans changed slightly, I knew I’d struggle to cope and I would constantly get this fuzzy feeling and I would have what I called a ‘meltdown’.
Joining the Youth Adventure Programme came at an important time in my life and provided a safe place, one I felt supported in and one where I was treated equally. Different from my Year 7 at school where I felt a bit lost and isolated. All the staff and volunteers at YAT were amazing, they offered me their time and a listening ear whenever I was worried, they were caring and friendly and made the whole experience a lot of fun. Without their support I wouldn’t have pushed myself or grown as much”.
We asked Ben about the challenges he faced whilst on the programme and how they helped him grow;
“I heard the phrase ‘challenge by choice’ a lot on the programme, and I’m really pleased I chose to take on the challenges that I was faced with. The outdoors gave me loads of adventures and back then I was really anxious, worried and used to doubt everything, but YAT staff, volunteers, teammates and instructors encouraged me to ‘give things a go’. I learnt that ‘giving things a go’ didn’t mean I had to complete it, or worry about it, it just meant take a step forward and try my best. I learnt that everyone’s best is different and it’s okay to be different.
When you’re in the moment, taking on the challenge, it’s easy to just give up and walk away, the option is always there! I soon learnt the important thing is not to give up, to keep going and with everyone’s support I did this. By pushing myself I now know that it’s made me more confident and resilient. I didn’t realise it at the time but resilience is something I need now more than ever with everything that’s going on in my life. Especially with everything going on in the world with the pandemic.
In Year 7 my anxiety meant that things seemed and felt scary but now looking back all I remember is laughing lots, smiles and loads of fun. Canoeing, climbing, caving, jumping in water, shelter building, sleeping under the stars and high ropes were some of my favourite memories”.
We asked Ben to try and remember a moment on the programme where he felt especially proud;
“That’s easy. My proudest moment was when I led the group through caving and one of the really popular lads in my group pulled me to one side and told me I was a great leader and really confident in the caves. He told me he was feeling worried in the caves and how I’d really helped him get through. This was followed by a high five and left me with a feeling of utter pride. I wrote about this in my review book at the end of that day and still look at this every now and again when I need a pick me up”.
Ben went on to tell us about what he’s up to now;
“I recently applied to universities and got accepted, your help with the personal statement is really appreciated! I’ve joined running clubs, I’ve volunteered to run events, I’ve climbed mountains and completed my silver DofE award. But I think the most important thing I’ve done recently is to accept change and unexpected changes, something I used to really struggle with. The Youth Adventure Trust was honestly one of the best, most incredible experiences I’ve had so far in my life. If I hadn’t taken part there is no way I would have done any of the things I’ve just mentioned, I’d be in a completely different place, I reckon I would still be really anxious, worried and still fearing any sort of change.”
Ben was keen to get in touch with us, not only to share his story, but to encourage other young people who get the opportunity to join YAT to, in his words, “give it a go.”
Ben went on to say a huge thank you for the life changing opportunity and said “I’ll be coming back to volunteer with The Youth Adventure Trust as soon as I can and can’t wait for more adventures.”
In 2022 Ben will be representing the Youth Adventure Trust at Le Loop cycling event in France, organised by one of our funders, the William Wates Memorial Trust. He will be sharing the positive impact of his time on the programme, thanks to the support of the Trust over recent years. He’ll also be starting university where he is planning to study Sport and Exercise Science. We couldn’t be prouder of how far Ben has come, and can’t wait to hear about his next adventures.