Rites of Passage - UK

We deliver outdoor personal development programmes directly to young adults aged 18+ who have challenging life histories such as homelessness, poor mental health, difficult family relationships, abuse, unemployment, poor educational attainment, drug and alcohol addiction. Young people are recruited onto the programme via our national network of partner agencies, especially those supporting homeless young people e.g. Centrepoint and Foyer Federation.

The programme is called Rites of Passage because of its focus on moving young people towards adult responsibility. It includes wilderness-based activities and journeying away from familiar environments. The programme is designed to develop independence through three phases, each demanding greater levels of planning and responsibility. Rites of Passage is completed over four months during which time participants travel in small companionship groups, staying in Youth Hostels and camping. Sleeping and eating outdoors, meeting people from around the world and volunteering in youth hostels all contribute to the rich learning experiences of the programme. Young people also learn how to plan journeys, cook and eat well on a budget, manage travel and research accommodation. Young people design and lead their own journeys, working collaboratively to negotiate cost and manage risk. Former participants have achieved significant independent journeys such as a solo traverse of Hadrian's Wall.

On the programme young people are challenged and encouraged to be ambitious. Their perception of life and of their potential moves away from a negative viewpoint and towards a positive one as they realise how much they are capable of. Their progress, achievements and talents are recognised and witnessed by peers, mentors and programme staff. They develop a closer connection with the natural world, new friendships and a bank of positive stories to tell. They complete the programme feeling more confident, prepared and equipped to begin their lives as independent adults.

The internal Journey:

At the same time as the journeying around the UK, participants undergo an ‘internal journey’ of change and development. They experience challenges, journeys, experiences and adaptive learning taking place over many months. Over the course of the programme young adults have the chance to implement their learning into their daily lives. Repetition allows for failures as well as successes, so that personal change and learning has a better chance of being deeply rooted and therefore more sustainable.

Participants bring their own issues to the programme, derived from their personal histories and these challenges and goals form the core of the internal journey.

‘I was bottling everything up and not expressing anything, so any stress just sent me inside and bottling it up was bad for me, got very down. Now I talk things through with the guys. One time they persuaded me to stay and not give up’ – participant

The structure and content of the programme requires the participants to use their initiative, manage themselves and their resources, and plan their own journeys. 

‘You get the support of good role models which help you grow and take responsibility and become independent’ – participant

Our staff support and challenge participants in equal measure, during the residentials and between them. As the group interaction grows deeper during the year, participants start to meet more of their needs from their peers, rather than all from staff. Participants gradually take more responsibility for themselves and learn to be self-reliant.

Need for the programme:

The aim of the programme is to fill a gap in provision identified in consultation with young people and national homeless services. Young people engaged in services are supported to become stable within supported accommodation, but often lack the skills and motivation to take the next step to independent living. Young people we consulted reported feeling stuck where they were, and lacking the impetus and confidence to move on from the supported services in which they had become comfortable. Collectively, we identified a lack of provision in helping young people develop the confidence and motivation to take this necessary step; the programme was designed to meet this need and we aim to do this in partnership with key workers and support agencies.

Young adults on our programme have often coped with significant adversity and dealt with many challenges. They have already demonstrated resilience and resourcefulness. When they arrive at Chance for Change, they are stable but need to be helped to move forward to take the next step. We give them time and space to make sense of where they are today and where it is they want to be tomorrow. 

Programme outcomes:

What young participants say:

 “We get a new positive mind-set and positive message we can keep in our heads”

“It’s all about showing people that I can do stuff to be proud of (instead of feeling ashamed) and the course has helped me with that.”

“A chance to see the world as a nice place”

“We get skills we can use for the rest of our lives”

“We get to trust each other and ourselves.”

“It teaches you to take charge of your own life and see what really matters to get what you need.”

“It works in a relaxed way, not like a school atmosphere.”

What staff and support workers from homeless agencies say:

“He just needed to be in the right environment to move him on- and it totally worked for him- the combination of Centrepoint and Chance for Change- it didn’t take long (and he didn’t need long- just a step up).”

“He is getting his voice heard more now, more assertive and asking questions to get what he wants- more at ease with himself and happier- has self-belief now- sees the future is there for him.”

“young people go through some major changes as part of this process and grow in confidence and develop a whole range of new skills that can be transferred across their daily lives. Such skills include conflict resolution, navigation, online research, cooking, budgeting, how to plan, working within a group and using their initiative applying problem solving skills.”

There are also positive outcomes for us and our partners through working together we are able to learn from each other and together give young people the support they need both during and after the programme has finished.

“Working in partnership with Chance for Change has exposed Mayday and it’s clients to exceptional life changing opportunities. The programme has influenced the thinking and the work of Mayday and as a result of this we now offer a strength based model and approach to our clients that focuses on talents, skills and ability ensuring that the clients remain the focus of all support.” Mayday- Homeless Agency Partner