Reflections on our 8-year journey

I recall sitting in a cafe, in the middle of Sydney CBD, and listening to this man I had never met before telling me about a new venture they were launching. His passion was contagious, his vision inspirational. A new program was setting sail, combining coaching and adventures to help disadvantaged young people develop critical life skills (or ‘life effectiveness skills’, as he would have said). ‘Him’ was Andrew Stainer and the new venture was of course The Helmsman Project. The organisation, set up as a charity, was on a volunteer recruitment drive… and I was hooked!

Working alongside Andrew, John Naylor (co-founder), directors, amazingly talented volunteers including passionate coaches, schools, funding partners as well as researchers, the following few years were a sequence of learnings, improvements and great achievements. The completion in 2019 of our longitudinal randomised controlled trial, funded by the Australian Research Council, was one of those major milestones. The research proved the anecdotal evidence we had gained over the years in terms of the significant impact our program has on young people’s wellbeing, hope, self-confidence, self-beliefs, self-regulation, social effectiveness and so many more important qualities and life skills (you can view our impact report here).

At the start of 2020, we began a process of consulting with schools to identify their needs and challenges and design another program that would allow us to work with many more young people. Despite all the challenges it presented, COVID was a silver lining, giving us time to focus on the development of this new offering which we piloted last year and launched at the start of 2021.

It’s been eight years since that first meeting with Andrew, and The Helmsman Project has empowered over 1,000 young people to develop fundamental life skills. Many of these young people have had their life trajectory completely turned around. I am proud and humbled to have been part of their journey with our team. 

Every young person has potential. It saddens me deeply to know that not everyone has the support and opportunities to fulfil their potential, or even are interacting in environments detrimental to their wellbeing.  

As we continue to innovate and design programs based on evidence, we keep our focus on our vision of a world where young people realise their potential. To achieve this, we strongly believe we must equip our youth with the fundamental psychological skills and perspective to set meaningful goals, overcome setbacks, persevere and thrive. This quote, from one of our past participants, is an important reminder of what we can achieve:

“[T]o feel that The Helmsman Project has pushed me this far, got me out of my shoes, it’s amazing, and that’s helped me with my future goals, I guess, ‘cause a few years back I would have never thought about my future the way I do now. The way I think about my future now is like ‘I want to do this, this, this, this.’ I’ve got so many open doors.” Alex, 17

If you share our beliefs and vision and are inspired to join us on our journey in whatever shape it takes, I’d love to hear from you. Drop me a line at

Best wishes,



Kim Larochelle

Kim joined The Helmsman Project as a volunteer when it first started delivering programs in 2013. In January 2014, she became one of the organisation's first two employees and is now CEO. She has had the privilege, along with the team, to witness and support The Helmsman Project's growth.

Send us your comments