Sarah’s Story: a life-changing journey of self-discovery

Sarah was struggling with her self-identity, her family relationships were under a huge strain and she was losing confidence in herself and those around her. Sarah’s school referred her to YAT in the hope that she could rebuild her self-esteem.

Like all young people who join our Adventure Programme, Sarah set herself three aims for her first residential camp, Mountain Camp:

  • More confidence in my actions by giving everything a go
  • Break things down to achieve one thing at a time
  • Make new friends, have more self-confidence

During the camp, Sarah displayed excellent leadership skills and increased her confidence as she completed challenges such as navigating a cave system and jumping off a waterfall. She regularly demonstrated her ability to be kind, considerate, and a team player, and it was clear she wanted to use all the opportunities available. This was a great start to her Youth Adventure Trust journey!

Following Mountain Camp, Sarah experienced bullying at school, and her parents separated. This coincided with the beginning of the pandemic and really affected her mental health. The repeated lockdowns left her feeling isolated and lacking in self-confidence and she felt she had hit rock-bottom. The weekly sessions in our online Mentoring Programme gave Sarah a chance to explore strategies she could use when she was feeling low, and to help her slowly re-build her self-esteem and self-confidence. 

Once lockdowns had eased, Sarah attended Activity Days which helped her manage her anxiety levels. With the additional support from her Programme Manager, Sarah set her aims for her next residential camp, Forest Camp, as:

  • Not to let others distract me
  • Not to be as sensitive
  • To be more confident and believe in myself

Although still feeling anxious, Sarah found the courage to attend Forest Camp and we saw a marked change in her – she demonstrated lots of positive actions, and motivated and encouraged her group to complete the activities even when they found them challenging. Other young people identified Sarah as a leader, and she was often in the middle of anything that went well for her team. She found it hard to acknowledge the positive feedback she was receiving from her peers but made a conscious effort to start listening to it. Sarah’s experience in Forest Camp helped her understand that her contributions are worthwhile, helped her to gain confidence and to build strong friendships. 

As the programme came to an end, we could see that Sarah had begun to make positive changes in her confidence and wellbeing. We felt there was more we could do, so recommended Sarah to our Mentoring Programme where she could receive one-to-one support fortnightly for a year.

During this time, Sarah was also accessing specialist support for her mental health, and so we matched her with a mentor who would complement this. Sarah was still experiencing challenges at home and bullying from young people in her community; mentoring offered Sarah time away from the family home, a safe environment where she could talk if she wanted to, but also the chance to engage in some fun and challenging activities to build her confidence.

Gradually, over the course of the year, Sarah’s situation started to improve, and the consistent support and positive relationship with YAT helped Sarah develop her self-belief, focus on the positives, and build resilience. Her mentor was able to give Sarah advice around managing relationships to help her see things from other perspectives, and they enjoyed activities together including climbing, golf, bowling and walking. They formed a positive bond with lots of laughter as well as open conversations.

We get on really well and she can be very funny but we also relate on a lot of levels.

Sarah, describing her relationship with her mentor.

At the end of her mentoring year Sarah’s confidence level was at the highest we had seen, and she was able to be insightful about herself and the progress she had made:

With the Youth Adventure Trust, they’re just really supportive. They listen and have given me a whole different perspective on adults as a whole. I feel like I’m more open, especially with my parents, than I ever was before, so that’s helped my connection with them a lot.

Sarah, reflecting on her progress

For Sarah, being part of the Youth Adventure Programme, the additional support during the COVID-19 pandemic, and then the YAT Mentoring Programme, has been life changing. She feels ready for the challenges and adventures that await her in the next stages of her life, and the 16-year-old we see now is a very different, more resilient, happier and confident young person to the 11-year-old we first met.