Imbewu Scotland tackles mental health in young people

Jo Roberts ,
18 Jun 2020

Jo Roberts is the CEO of Wilderness Foundation. In this blog, she discusses the aims of the foundation, the Imbewu programme and a brief history of its progress up to the present day.


The crisis of mental health is looming with a particular concern for the wellbeing of young people. This was already starting to be a mounting issue before Coronavirus struck and the indications are that the legacy of the virus will be creating further issues for youth. We are seeing an increase in anxiety and depression, and now we add extra factors such as grief into the mix. Supported by Scottish Land & Estates, the Imbewu programme connects urban youth—most of whom have never experienced the natural world before—with the wisdom of people who live and work in rural Scotland. The programme, which is changing its name to Agad Treun (I am Brave in Gaelic), won a Helping it Happen Education Award in 2017.

The work of the Wilderness Foundation has been to deliver programmes across the country that offer facilitated, therapeutic wilderness trails with significant outcomes. Research by the University of Essex evidenced that nature connection is one of the most powerful mediums to boost self- esteem, mood, hopefulness and resilience.

We know from years of exploring Scotland’s wildest places with groups of vulnerable youth that being outdoors in the wild works. We aim to make more of this strength by increasing nature based mental health interventions as a way of serving our communities into the future.

Scottish Land & Estates has been the key partner since 2014. In discussions with Sarah-Jane Laing, trustees, schools, guides and young people we have decided to change the name of the programme to Agad Treun (I am Brave in Gaelic). This reflects the courage of young people working to help themselves too.

As a dedicated Scottish based initiative serving Scotland’s young people we felt a Zulu name had been a good start but taking on a Gaelic name is more reflective of our purpose. 

Into 2020/2021 once we are able to work with young people again, Agad Treun will focus on improved mental health as the main outcome from the programme, and each trail with Agad Treun youth will include a wilderness therapist. We will continue to work with estates and their inspirational staff, wild camp over three days, do our volunteering programme and present to the estates at the end of our week-long immersions. We will shift the focus away from rural jobs promotion however, and help young people develop social skills for employment and healthy relationships, as part of overall wellbeing facilitation. These have all been outcomes that came naturally through the programme in the past so we are just getting better at focusing on what truly works and makes a difference.

Serving the rural sector and a range of estates, Imbewu (Agad Treun) worked with over 300 young people across Scotland, with a focus on those with disadvantage of location or opportunity.

We will report on progress as we are in a focused fundraising drive at the moment with a goal to raise £150,000 to take us forward for the next three years. We hope to renew Agad Treun weeks away either later this year or in 2021. If you are interested in helping us with a location, or other support please contact Jo Roberts CEO of the Wilderness Foundation on 03001233073 or email

Visit the Wilderness Foundation website -

You can find our more about the 2020 Helping It Happen Awards, and enter a submission here