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Wilderness Foundation appoints former Essex High Sheriff as their new Chair

WILDERNESS Foundation UK, an Essex based charity, helping young people reconnect to society and themselves through outdoor adventure and mentoring, are delighted to announce the appointment of their new Chair of Trustees, Vincent Thompson.

Vincent, a former High Sheriff of Essex,  Deputy Lieutenant and Vice Lord-Lieutenant of Essex succeeds Peter Martin, who has been Chair since 2014 and will remain a trustee and chair of the Finance Committee. Vincent recognises that he has big boots to fill but is looking forward to helping the charity navigate the tough times we are all going through with Covid and build their position for future growth.

Vincent explains why he was drawn to the Wilderness Foundation UK:

“I first came across The Wilderness Foundation UK in my year as High Sheriff when it struck a chord, primarily due to the exceptional work done with those suffering mental health problems but also through my own love of open spaces, an appreciation of the benefits brought to us all by engagement in wild places and my contacts with their exceptional CEO and her team.”

With his working life spent in the world of Corporate Finance, Vincent brings strategic and financial skills to the role and his experience as a trustee of the Brentwood Cathedral and Choral Trust for over 25 years. Vincent’s role as High Sheriff and subsequent work within the community and his passion for nature is closely linked to the Foundation’s mission to help transform lives through the power of nature, to conserve beautiful habitats and support better mental health. These were important factors in the Foundation’s decision to appoint Vincent as Chair and the potential to guide the charity into the future.

For the past three and a half years, Vincent has led a group seeking to protect Easton Park, an ancient park of 1,000 acres close to Stansted Airport, from the threat of 10,000 houses and to preserve it for future generations. This challenge continues, and Vincent sees this having certain parallels with the Wilderness Foundation UK and its mission to conserve nature. Vincent is also a member of the Hatfield Forest Local Committee.

Jo Roberts, CEO of Wilderness Foundation UK, said:

“Vincent brings a wealth of knowledge of business development to the Foundation, a passion for nature, and a deep understanding of Essex and its communities. He is modest about his achievements, but I have witnessed and benefited from his sharp mind and commitment to building his understanding of things and then applying some critical thinking and solutions. He also shares the urgency for our work to address the impacts of climate change and the epidemic of mental health issues for people. I believe we are in wonderful hands going forwards and he will build on the outstanding work of Peter Martin, our retiring Chair, who deserves a huge public thank you for the support he has given to the organisation and me personally particularly in the recent difficult months.”

With the recent lockdown and restrictions imposed, people have found their movements severely restricted. Along with furlough and additional economic uncertainty, levels of anxiety, depression, and stress have increased exponentially. Loneliness and the worry of getting the virus have also added to the effects on people’s mental health. The Wilderness Foundation UK, a charity working to improve the mental health and wellbeing of vulnerable young people and adults through nature-based outreach programmes, has found that this ‘new normal’ has led to a substantial increase in the need for their nature-based therapy services throughout Essex and the rest of the country. The Wilderness Foundation UK have a long history of supporting vulnerable groups and individual clients with the healing power of nature and the outdoors.

Jo Roberts explained:

“We know from experience that helping one vulnerable young person find coping mechanisms to help reduce anger and violence and function better, has a big impact on their immediate and often extended family and thus the community they live in. This expands when we work successfully with those in anti-social behaviours or those who have previously refused support. Building a lasting love of nature and finding solace in her beauty is something that can live on in all our graduates too.”

Within the Wilderness Foundation programmes, there is a style of working that offers activity and fun, whilst mixing in critically important support in therapy, tools and strategies for trauma recovery, managing relationships, boundaries, self-care, communication and emotional control for example. Therapy programmes are imaginative and use games, bushcraft, camp cooking, walking, foraging, nature art, and craft.

Vincent said:

“I was delighted to be asked by Peter and Jo to apply for the position of Trustee and Chair of the Trustees and greatly honoured when the Trustees selected me for the position. The Wilderness Foundation UK benefits from an exceptional heritage, a strong business model and an outstanding CEO who has built an equally impressive team. I am particularly grateful to Peter for his work in building the charity and handing over an operation in first-class condition. The need for the western world to reorder its priorities has become increasingly apparent, and The Wilderness Foundation UK has an important role to play in this regard.”

The current pandemic has seen an increase in the number of referrals to the Wilderness Foundation seeking face-to-face contact. Being completely outdoors and nature-based, they can offer this service in the safest of ways. As Jo explains, ‘We are one of the few services able to offer face-to-face nature therapy during the current restrictions, helping many of our young people return to being outside as they struggle with social isolation. With the increase in demand for nature-based therapy, we sought funding to help provide the level of support required for people of all ages through the current pandemic.’

For further information on The Wilderness Foundation UK and the important work Jo Roberts, CEO and her team do please visit: https://wildernessfoundation.org.uk.

If you think you know someone who would benefit from their support services either online or face-to-face, please get in touch at info@wildernessfoundation.org.uk or visit http://www.wildernessfoundation.org.uk.

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