Graduate Stories

Outdoor Education Graduate - Damien Daly

What I do: Therapeutic Carer

I currently working as a Therapeutic Carer for a company called Lioncare based in Brighton, England. Lioncare provides a home for children and young people who have complex needs, have experienced abusive, neglectful, and / or chaotic and traumatic situations in their lives. My role, as part of a team is to help the children in our care learn how to cope with the pressures and demands of day-to-day living. Think of it as a kind of A&E for children you have lived through some of the worst experiences our world has to offer.

The home I work in houses seven children. The placements are long term, all of the children spend at least a year in the home, most staying for up to 4 to 5 years. The aim of the home is to bring the children to a point were they have some since of control over their feelings around their past. At this point they can then move in with an experienced foster family.

One half of my job entails all the day to day things your parent would have done for you, getting the children up in the morning, making their breakfast and lunch, dropping them off at school and so on. The other half of my job is to share experiences and build relationships with the children so they can begin to trust me. When trust has been established the children can start to unload some of their feelings around their past or make new disclosures. This part of my job is far from straight forward. It can often involve trying to manage situations so that they don't become aggressive and or violent, while if they do, I have to remember that their aggression or violence might be directed at me but it is rarely truly about me.

Some days can be very stressful, tiring and emotionally draining but the majority are very enjoyable. I have never before had a job where I felt my work had more meaning or gave me as much satisfaction.

How the course helped me

To start with, I would not have my job, if I did not have a degree and experience working with groups of children and young people. While I may not be using my" hard" outdoor skills, such as climbing or paddling, I feel the experience and knowledge I gained from my Outdoor Education degree makes a huge contribution to my ability to manage difficult situations in work every day.

While this may not be immediately obvious, I feel the grounding I was given in social/behavioural psychology and sociology helps me to try and understand some of the children's behaviours. Added to this the experience I gained in training to be an instructor helped to me hone my communication and risk management skill. Having an understanding of body language, volume, tone and the rate of my speech in combination with my position to a child or group of children has helped turn many potentially difficult situations into positive outcomes.

Also coming from an outdoor background I have become the go to person for first aid situations, swimming in the sea, the odd kayaking or mountain biking session and camping trips. Finally the experience of being trained as an outdoor educator has drilled into me the importance of reflecting upon events that occur at work. This gives me the ability to de-construct various events and allows me to identify things I can do differently in similar situations in the future, to help influence a more positive outcome.