In July 2021, The Helmsman Project received an email from Sara Wanner, a teacher from British Columbia, Canada, requesting to deliver our Wellbeing program to her students. This marked the beginning of The Helmsman Project going international!
Sara has 20 years teaching experience and is currently completing her Masters in Positive Psychology and Coaching Psychology, through which she heard about The Helmsman Project’s programs.
“I heard about The Helmsman Project through Clive Leach when he did a guest presentation for students of the Positive Psychology and Coaching Program at the University of East London. Clive was so passionate and the stories he shared about his experience with the program and the effect it had on the young people he worked with really spoke to me - I had to learn more so I reached out.”
The flexibility of our Wellbeing program combined with remote working skills (a silver lining of COVID-19) allowed our Program Optimisation Manager, Matt Robinson, to train and collaborate with Sara from across the world to deliver the program to 70 students in Canada.
Sara understands the importance of adolescent mental health and wellbeing. “I often ask myself ‘What am I doing to support my students' mental health?’,” she says. She is passionate about supporting them and seeks out any opportunity to talk about wellbeing.
“I was thrilled to find a program specifically designed for Year 9 students. The approach of goal-setting, hands-on experiences and reflection were spot on for this age group.”
Mental health and wellbeing interventions are particularly important for students in Year 9, a scientifically proven pivotal point in an adolescent’s life. One of the highlights of the program for Sara’s students was working on “what they want their story to be” and overcoming challenges and personal obstacles to fulfil their story. “Prove them wrong” was the tagline used by her students as they discussed ways to overcome these challenges.
“The program opened their eyes to support options and ways of thinking they hadn’t considered before. They expressed that they are excited to learn tools to help them with real life.”
Another key highlight for the students was the lessons and activities around healthy communication. Sara saw a noticeable shift in the students’ active listening skills and better engagement with their peers. Sara’s students practiced these skills outside the classroom and reported back their observations about changes in their own listening and communication skills.
As with all things, this program delivery was not without its challenges. The Surrey community in Canada experienced not only COVID-19 outbreaks, delaying students' return to school after the Christmas break, but also devastating flooding events impacting some students’ ability to get to school. Thankfully, the flexibility of the program allowed Sara to modify and adapt the lessons around these events and still deliver the content to her students.
Sara says she “would 100% recommend the program to other teachers.” She recommends the program as a “precious tool kit that offers opportunities for authentic, organic conversations and allows students to feel heard and seen.”
“The students really enjoyed the workbook. It was nice to see students excited about the content and see them make the workbook their own by adding some inspirational quotes and colouring.”
“It’s an amazing experience for them, and also for us as teachers to watch our students grow in developing their own wellbeing capacities.”
Don’t just take Sara’s word for it, here’s what some of her students had to say about the program:
“This program changed my overall perspective of living and wellness.”
“I got to know my classmates a little more and we worked on teamwork which was pretty cool.”
“This program opened my eyes to the real world.”
“These workshops have made me more confident.”
“Everyone participated in the workshops so I didn’t feel alone.”
“I liked learning new things about mental health, myself and others.”