The lost generation - 2021 versus 1941
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The lost generation - 2021 versus 1941

We’re going to be 80 this year.

If Outward Bound was a person we’d have had our first dose of a vaccine now. And we truly hope we’re here for another 80 years. Because we think young people are as vulnerable now as they were when we were founded in 1941.

Today's news: forgotten victims

Tune in to any news today, and you're faced with when, if and how young people can get back to face to face education. There are demands for a ‘route map’ for return to schools and a group of Tory MPs have told Boris Johnson that schoolchildren have become the pandemic’s ‘forgotten victims’.

Now here’s an interesting conversation starter (imagine if you like you're at a dinner party or with friends) – how do you feel about the plight of young people right now?

Wherever you align yourself politically, economically or socially - how do you feel about their situation? We're an 80 year old charity founded in some of the darkest days of our history, who now work with 25,000 young people every year. Our mission throughout the past eight decades has been constant – to help young people defy their limitations. We still have alumni who can remember the early days of Outward Bound. But was their reality anything like relevant today? There's always one slightly contentious dinner party guest, so we've done some thinking comparing then to now...

Life in 1941: saving lives of young people

Dark days. In 1941 most people can remember the four long years of The Great War. And the Second World War doesn’t look to be ending any time soon.

If you’re a kid living in an inner city, the government decide that the best way to protect you is to evacuate you. Take you away from your family, to the country, where there are no air raids, just air that is clean and fresh. With space to roam. This isn't something we can imagine today, but what is particularly interesting is that the government didn't evacuate entire families, they prioritised the safety of young people.

It was in these dark days that Outward Bound was formed. Our co-founders aim was to save the lives of young sailors, because they spotted that they were dying at a faster rate than their older comrades who had been at sea for years. They realised the best way to protect young people was to use the power of learning and adventure in the outdoors, to teach them how to manage risk and to build resilience, self-belief and confidence. And it worked. Put simply, in 1941 Outward Bound was a four-week fast-track course in staying alive.

Outward Bound's unique approach didn't only save lives, it's gone on to help generations of young people realise that they could achieve anything they set their minds to. Take a look at any of our alumni stories and you’ll see how the hope that is born on our mountains, seas and lakes leads to new horizons.

Life in 2021: prioritising the vulnerable

Dark days. 2021 was supposed to bring the promise of freedom that came with the vaccines, not new strains of the virus and a longer, national lockdown.

If you’re a kid today, the government have decided that the best thing to protect the rest of the nation is to keep you indoors. To keep you with your family 24/7. The exact opposite of 1941. In this crisis you are kept home from school, with limited air and freedom to roam. In fact, break the rules and you might "kill your gran". Gulp. We're not sure the younger version of us would ever quite recover from this, at least not without some support. Would you?

The threat to life might not be quite so obvious. Our young people aren't facing the enemy on land, air and sea. But every day our news reports on crises against the enemies of hunger and inequality, excessive screen time and obesity or mental and physical health problems.

And so when you ask us how we feel about the plight of young people today... we empathise, we care, we want to put them front and centre. And not just because when we're 80 they're going to be in charge.

Invite Outward Bound to your dinner party and we'll tell you that we want to help young people come through these dark days with the skills they need to succeed and hope for their future. In 2021 Outward Bound can be the fast-track course in rebuilding our young people. To appreciate what they have and to truly feel that their wellbeing is as important as anyone else's. That they understand how to manage risk, to work as a team and communicate appropriately. That they realise that they have choices. And most importantly that they can defy their limitations and achieve whatever they set their mind to.

Further Reading