Young people who are struggling with their mental health are being offered a unique Duke of Edinburgh Award expedition.
Social enterprise Happy Explorer is offering the opportunity to 12 individuals aged 16 to 24 to complete the award on a stand-up paddleboard.
Organisations like the group offering this, apply commercial strategies to maximise improvements in financial, social and environmental well-being.
Financial support is available for individuals who may otherwise struggle to meet the expenses.
There will be training, which will take place for two and a half hours on Sundays in April and May.
Once the organisers are satisfied that all individuals and the team are safe and happy, the organisers will step back and meet the participants at various points along the route.
Participants will then complete a practice and final expedition which will go towards either the Gold or Silver Duke of Edinburgh Award.
The DoE Award is a programme set up by Prince Phillip, which is made up of cultural and adventurous activities for young people, with an identifying factor being the completion of a multiple day expedition.
Andy North, who runs Happy Explorer, explained how the idea came about: ‘You see young people walking around with their huge backpacks, doing the Duke of Edinburgh, and they are miserable.
‘This is the opposite of what we are trying to do, we want young people to enjoy the outdoors.’
He added: ‘For the silver award you have to spend seven hours journeying for three days, and you aim to be on the water trying to get somewhere, so we don’t do it by distance, we do it by time.’
‘I want these places to go to people who need it the most, or who wouldn’t get the opportunity to otherwise.’
Participants will carry their own waterproof rucksacks, do their own cooking, and will be camping on beaches.
Happy Explorer was set up last May, and aims to improve mental wellbeing through outdoor experiences.
The opportunity is sponsored by IoM Youth Service, which is part of the Department of Education, Sport and Culture, The Michelson Fund and The Rotary Club of Douglas.
Mr North, who set the enterprise up, was an expedition leader at charity the Children’s Centre for 10 years, where he helped individuals struggling with mental health through expeditions.
He has also been a lecturer at University College Isle of Man in creative thinking, photography and film-maker.
As a recently appointed ‘active and adventure champion’ for Visit Isle of Man he will also be providing advice on eco-tourism and growing the active and adventure holiday market in the island.
Happy Explorer, leads excursions such as glass-bottom kayaking, wildlife watching, wellbeing and wilderness trips, to people of all ages.
Recently, Manx Care approached Mr North to ask if doctors could prescribe individuals struggling with mental health to go on these experiences.
Mr North said: ‘When we started, I was amazed how relaxed people felt being in the glass bottom kayaks in this avatar world.
‘They are looking at these 3D worlds beneath them, it is almost like there mind has had a holiday, but I was amazed how relaxed people feel.’
He said: ‘I used to work in education, and I saw mental health just plummet.
‘Whilst there is lots of scientific research which says that being outdoors helps with mental health, I think it is just our natural state, and our bodies know where we are supposed to be.’
To discuss the opportunity, you can contact Andy North at [email protected] happyexplorer.co.uk or Facebook/happyexploreriom