EU funds research into benefits of surfing
A Cornish not-for-profit company has launched a new European project aimed at evaluating links between health, education and the environment.
The Wave Project, which is based in Truro, launched the EU-funded scheme, called Waves, at a conference in Naples on Wednesday.
The Europe-wide partnership project involves five countries and will examine the benefits of outdoor activities such as surfing, swimming and cycling on the people aged over 16 who are socially excluded.
The two-year scheme is being funded by the European Union's Lifelong Learning Programme, and involves organisations from five partner countries – England, Italy, Turkey, Portugal and Romania.
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Two hundred people who are deemed to be socially excluded, and not in education, employment or training, will get to take part in the activities in these partner countries.
Waves will explore the impact of projects involving water activities, such as surfing and swimming, as well as other outdoor activities including cycling and hiking.
Partner organisations will then share and compare models of good practice that promote improved confidence, wellbeing and social inclusion for disadvantaged people with social or learning difficulties.
Joe Taylor, chief executive of The Wave Project, which is spearheading the project, said: "People with low confidence and self esteem and poor social skills often have the lowest educational achievements, and find it hardest to re-engage with education, work or further training.
"Pushing them into unwanted work or further training can often be unproductive, because they simply don't have the confidence to achieve, and quickly become disillusioned.
"These people are usually those most at risk of social isolation – becoming lonely and depressed, and in some cases developing serious and ongoing mental health problems.
"This project will explore the benefits of outdoor activity on people who have fallen into this trap, and assess the effectiveness of this approach using a large sample of clients from different countries.
"The project aims to bring together organisations that have used similar techniques for helping people overcome barriers to education by building confidence and social skills through outdoor activities and challenges."
Waves will run projects in each partner country for groups of 50 people over two years.
Clients will undertake a specific course to help improve their confidence and motivation.
In the UK, this will focus on surfing; in Turkey clients will go swimming in the sea, while Italy and Romania will focus on walking and Portugal cycling.