UEL students bring teenagers closer to nature on Scottish Highlands treks

PUBLISHED: 12:24 11 May 2017 | UPDATED: 12:24 11 May 2017

Natalie Birikorang and Dominic Stevens, back row, with fellow UEL students Isheanesu Gwegweni, Rae Spencer and Jessica O'Connor

Natalie Birikorang and Dominic Stevens, back row, with fellow UEL students Isheanesu Gwegweni, Rae Spencer and Jessica O'Connor


University of East London students are travelling to Scotland to provide encouragement and mentorship to young people with issues ranging from addiction to anger management.

Participants on the Wilderness Foundation trekParticipants on the Wilderness Foundation trek

Six UEL students, all studying applied sport and exercise science, are taking eight people aged 14 to 20 on treks in the Scottish Highlands, each lasting four to seven days. Two of the six treks have already taken place.

The goal of the trips is to bring young people closer to nature so they can reflect on their lives and continue to take a more constructive direction.

The project, which is being carried out in association with the Wilderness Foundation, is part of UEL’s London Scholars research programme.

The organisation uses outdoor physical activity to help transform people’s lives. The students use different therapy techniques to help the young people open up about their lives at home.

They were not allowed to bring any cell phones on the trip, which one of the mentors, Dominic Stevens said allowed them to connect with nature and reduce stress.

“Living in London, everything is so busy,” Dominic, who studies sport physical education development, said.

“You don’t realize how busy it is until you leave and get away from technology and social media.”

Students on the trip have undergone accredited mentorship training and will work on research projects examining the effects of the treks.

Dominic, 21, decided to look at how a lack of technology affects young people’s minds. When the young people do not connect with their phones, they don’t think about everything that’s happening at home.

“That’s a really important part of the trip for them,” Dominic said.

For Natalie Birikorang, 21, the trip taught her something about herself. When she first arrived, she was unsure whether she would fit in with the group or open up. However, one of the young people she was mentoring had a similar background to her. She helped him open up.

“The trip taught me that I’m able to step out of my comfort zone,” Natalie, who studies sport physical education development, said.

“I can’t let my race or my background hold me back.”

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