The Visionaries

Date: 11/10/2021

The Visionaries is a social enterprise established in 2018 to help create nurturing school communities and to support young people into healthy adulthood. Their work takes many forms, from supporting schools, communities and offering ‘rites-of-passage’ experiences to disadvantaged staff and students to help them navigate teenage life. 

We were delighted to be able to help support The Visionaries in August 2021. We were able to fund a group of 5 young adults on their Lake District, off-grid adventure called ‘The Village At The Edge Of The World’ in August 2021. These young adults from marginalised socio-economic communities otherwise might not ever have had the opportunity to attend something like this. They spent a week walking up mountains, wild swimming, cooking over an open fire and sharing stories. 

This project is all about widening access to nature and ensuring all young people have the opportunity to benefit from time spent in the countryside. As well as giving these young people a positive memorable experience, The Visionaries teach them about the importance of rewilding, regenerative agriculture and sustainable living habits. 

Only 0.6% of our outdoor professionals are visibly minority ethnic. By widening participation to The Village, The Visionaries hope to further break down the lack of representation amongst those who work in the outdoor industry as they will support these participants to access careers in the outdoors, either with The Visionaries or within their network of environmental youth leadership organisations. They have opportunities for traineeships at our other youth camps which will act as a springboard to further work in nature, something these particular youth would be very unlikely to identify with without support to have a first-hand experience like The Village.

The legacy of this grant will be proven through the continued participation in the outdoors and environmental leadership displayed by those who received bursary placed to this experience. 

Here are some words from the founder of the Visionaries, Max Girardeau:

‘I am deeply grateful to everyone at the Ramblers Holidays Charitable Trust that helped us widen access to The Village At The Edge Of The World to a group of young African & Caribbean adults who otherwise might not ever have the opportunity to attend something like this. The transition into adulthood is confusing, emotional and full of doubt and unanswered questions at the best of times. This is only amplified for those with a large number of adverse childhood experiences and traumatic childhoods. The Village provides the ideal therapeutic environment to come into a healthier relationship with ourselves, with others and with the natural world, something that can be especially healing for those who have faced additional challenges growing up.

It was this passion for the outdoors, ignited by my family holidays, combined with a growing understanding of the shortcomings of our current education system, that drove me to start The Visionaries in 2019. We’re at a point in history where we’re going to march straight off a cliff edge if we don’t radically adapt our lifestyles. We must learn to become more sustainable, live more harmoniously with nature, live collaboratively and compassionately.

Our intention for The Village is to take an intimate group of young adults, immerse then in an awe-inspiring campsite in Grizebeck, near Coniston Water. For many, it was their first time camping. Everything was new - setting up a tent, cooking over a fire, using a compost toilet, showering outdoors. Combined with walking full days on the hill, reflecting on their life experiences and having the courage to share their challenges with one another made it a real stretch for some - but that’s where the growth happens! By sharing our stories with one another we come to realise that our struggles are much the same for others, and there’s solace in that.

We also offer at The Village a ’nature solo’ - a chance to spend a prolonged period of time (In this case half a day) immersed in nature alone, staying in one spot without any of our modern day distractions. Whilst a very simple practice, it can reveal profound insights into our lives, our values and our intentions for the future. This combination of exposure to nature, solitude and ridding oneself of any distractions, even for just a few hours is a real antidote to the fast-paced, information-overloaded, highly judgemental culture young people are growing up in.’

What impact did all this have? 

 Here is a wonderful testimonial from one of the young adults that received the RHCT’s bursary funding:

Testimonial from Nadège Réné

‘The Village at the Edge of the World camping experience had a profound impact on me. As someone who struggles with loneliness living alone in London, I could connect deeply with others. We shared food, talents, stories, and the warmth of the campfire. The things we learned about the medicine wheel and the daily activities helped me put the troubles weighing me down at home into perspective while being guided to a place of wisdom. I returned to London feeling so much better about my life.

 An activity that had an incredibly profound impact on me was the vision fast. We were sent into the wilderness alone for three hours, no phones, no books, no pens, just ourselves. I went into the vision fast with the affirmation, 'I trust in my path'. Out there in the wilderness, there were no distractions. There was nothing external to me influencing my thinking. While I was out there, I felt like I could own my thoughts, own my time, and own my 'self'. I had some candid revelations about where and how I hold myself back. I held a ceremony for my mum, who died when I was five- it just so happened to be her birthday that day. By the time the fast ended, my affirmations were 'I am on my path', 'I am true to my heart', and 'I have a beautiful family'.

The things I feared most going in and found most challenging, like the rain and cold, bats, slugs and bugs, and using an outdoor shower and toilet, ended up being the things I most appreciated. I faced my fears in a gentle and supported way, which has enabled me to see myself in a different, more capable way. So grateful to the visionaries team for allowing me to be a part of this life-changing experience.’