Connect –Teaching Young People About Safety and Life
By the late George Robotham
SU QLD’s Connect Program (http://su-connect.org.au/) is a long-term adventure-based learning program designed to help young people who are “at risk” — facing exclusion from school, come from broken homes or are locked into cycles of addiction – please take a moment to watch the video
There has been an amount of discussion (desensitising kids to risk and safety) about safety education for young people. I have been involved in the Connect, adventure-based, experiential learning program for about 14 years. As well as having a hell of a lot of fun the program helps young people make decisions about the safety of their lives (Drugs , grog, health etc), leadership, teambuilding and lifestyle issues. During my time I have attended many camps and have had the opportunity to assess the worth of Connect.
I believe we should be very careful of exhortations to introduce safety training to young people. The training needs to be fun, practical, applied and not take the joy out of experiences.
There is something special about adventure-based training for young people, but particularly for young blokes. They really enjoy the challenge and it is a great medium to get various messages across.
Speaking as a learning professional I have to say I consider Connect an exceptionally sound program that helps to fill a great need. There are many organisations that run adventure-based training for young people, Connect has many features that make it unique and special for its participants.
I am consistently impressed by the respect for self and others the camps focus on. The boys have a lot of fun and just as importantly learn a lot about themselves. They have enhanced interpersonal relationships as a result of attendance at these camps.
One of the Connect camps involves work experience at a prawn farm. Prior to starting work a discussion is held about the likely hazards of the work and appropriate controls.
Many of the Connect boys do not have a strong male role-model in their lives. We talk about A.D.D., no not what you normally think but Absent Dad Disease They don’t have effective dads, so they do not know how to be an effective Dad and the cycle continues. Connect does a good job of interrupting this cycle. There are many single mums out there who try very hard but struggle with the significant challenges they face.
The power-house behind Connect is Roy Devine. I have come to know Roy well in recent years and I have the upmost respect for Roy as a person and for the work he does. Roy is a quiet achiever, does not make a lot of noise about what he does but he has an impressive focus on his work. Roy is a leader, coach, mentor and second Dad to the boys on the camps. You will note I have been talking about boys on the camps, this is because I have only been on boys camps. Connect also runs successful camps for girls.
Learning that is guided by needs analysis and action and experiential learning models can make a big difference in many aspects of young people’s lives.