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Catch22 programme leader awarded prestigious British Exploring Society Award

Chloe Moul accepts an award on stage from two judges.

Catch22 programme leader Chloe Moul has been awarded the prestigious British Exploring Society’s Les Morgan Leader of the Year Award.

The award celebrates consistent excellence in any area of leadership, from those supporting and developing fellow leaders, to those providing guidance for future explorers preparing for expeditions. Here she talks about her work with the Dangoor Next Generation Project, a collaboration between Catch22 and British Exploring Society, which she has led for more than eight years.

I first became involved in this programme in 2011 as a volunteer. Catch22 and British Exploring had been involved in a Tall Ship Trust expedition which sailed from Norway to London and I was asked to meet these young people on their return to London; I was to project their newfound enthusiasm and motivation towards finding their next opportunity, be it a job, training, or further education. This was the beginning of this massive adventure.

What is the Dangoor Next Generation programme?

The Dangoor Next Generation Programme is a partnership programme developed with the British Exploring Society. By challenging young people to test themselves mentally and physically during an expedition across Iceland, we raise the aspirations of every young participant.

I recruit vulnerable and excluded young people from across the Catch22 network to join in the Dangoor Next Generation programme. After recruitment, my role transforms; I become a participant in the programme myself, as a senior leader and mentor to support these young people throughout the experience.

As Lead Mentor on the expedition, I am heavily involved in the support work we put in place in the preparation phase. Many of our young people have come from very challenging backgrounds but by the time it comes to departure day, every single young person on expedition knows “we will stay with you and support you throughout this whole journey and beyond.” Getting that message through to these incredibly vulnerable people, who have been let down over and over in the past is quite remarkable.

This programme requires that everyone to think about every gram they pack, every person in their team, and to manage the many heightened emotions that come with outdoor expeditions. With a trip of this kind, there are lost of challenges which can really test emotions, behaviour can become problematic and there is a lot of time spent testing the leaders boundaries to see if they are firm, but it’s the way in which we encourage these young people to face these trials head-on that really makes the difference. We are teaching them healthy coping mechanisms that they can recognise and use in the many challenges they will continue to face later in life.

What happens after the expedition?

After expedition, we offer wrap-around-support for every participant. For many, they’ll stay in the Catch22 network, to work on their literacy, numeracy or other qualifications, or for us to progress them to employment or training external from Catch22.

I’ve had the privilege of working alongside some of the most resilient young people in the UK who have sadly faced extreme circumstances in life at such a young age.  These young people are at times linked to the criminal justice system, some are struggling with substance misuse issues, some are required to live away from their normal home settings because life at home has been too chaotic.

On expedition, we notice the small steps our young people are making, its sometimes easy for us to constantly focus on the big progressions because it might meet a set funding requirement.  But in my opinion, it’s the small steps that make a huge difference to that young person’s life and to the untrained eye – they could be simply missed opportunities to see the greatness that lies beneath.  A small action such as a young person removing their headphones to listen to a session briefing, or an attempt at reading a navigation map even though that young person was adamant they were not going to do it, are the small steps towards taking on new tasks in life and not being afraid.

Leadership and Les Morgan Leader of the Year Award

I was up against some incredible people for this award – staff I’ve worked alongside for years. I’m absolutely thrilled to receive it and all I can say is that every one of the volunteer leaders have taught me so much.

I’ve never stopped learning since I started in this field, and I just can’t wait to learn more.

Quite aptly, a few days before I received the award, I happened to be in a restaurant where I ran into one of the people who was on programme with me a few years ago. She said:

“Can I just say I’ve been desperate to speak to you, because that trip changed my life.”

This individual had joined the Dangoor programme coming from a very unstable background and had been unemployed long-term; and here she was now greeting me as the manager of a restaurant. She had been super quiet, so very shy, and struggled with the group setting of our expedition.

But seeing her years on, still so humble but proud of what she had become – proud of herself – I was speechless.

Catch22 CEO Chris Wright says Chloe’s commitment to young people and to the Dangoor Next Generation Project has influenced the entire organisation:

“She has used her passion for the great outdoors to bring the British Exploring Society’s belief, that challenging experiences can transform lives, to some of the most vulnerable young people in the UK.

“Her success is evident in the outcomes of the lives she has influenced; both during expeditions and on every other day of the year, she is giving young people and other leaders the courage and determination to thrive.”

Honor Wilson-Fletcher CEO at British Exploring Society added:

“Working with Catch22 has helped us become the organisation we are today; able to serve young people dealing with really tough childhood and adolescent challenges. Chloe has been at the heart of that journey. She has trained leaders in the UK to ensure that they’re as well-equipped as possible to support our Explorers as well as spending every summer in North West Iceland, in all weathers, at the side of young people when they most need support.  She’s a fitting winner of this award – which says a lot about what C21st youth exploration is, and is not, about.”