Snow-Camp: Empowering young people through snowsports

Snow-Camp: Jonjoe's journey from East London streets to a ski career

How can one skiing lesson change the life of a young person who is failing in school and getting into trouble?

Three years ago that person was Jonjoe, but after his mum persuaded him to go on a Snow-Camp ski course, everything changed.

"I was worried because I felt he just didn't know where he was going," said Debby. "I never dreamed this would come out of that moment."

The thrill of taking part in snow sports often attracts young people but the associated costs can mean it is an experience only available to the privileged and wealthy.

UK charity Snow-Campexternal-link works in deprived inner-city areas to use young people's interest in the sports to engage them and provide life skills, qualifications and vocational training.

"I was a perfect candidate for it," says Jonjoe, who comes from Hackney Wick in London. "I'd never seen snow before, crazily! And never ever thought I'd put skis on."

Jonjoe progressed through the charity's programmes and last year was offered a year's paid apprenticeship in the snow sports industry.

"Through the apprenticeship I'm now an internationally-qualified ski coach and working my way up. Just through that one day of saying 'You know what mum, maybe I am going to go...', it's completely changed my life."

Here we introduce two more Snow-Camp graduates and explain more about how the programme works...

Sami's Story

Sami teaching a snowboarder on the indoor slope at Hemel Hemstead.
Since completing the Snow-Camp programme and becoming a level 1 snowboard instructor, Sami has volunteered his time to help and inspire other young people.

In 2014, Sami had dropped out of school and was often in trouble with the police. He lacked confidence and was facing a future that involved gangs, crime and continued unemployment.

"I was easily influenced and vulnerable to bad decisions. I had an attitude and I wasn't the best with authority," he said.

"I didn't know what I wanted to do as I had been through so much and let it drag me to the lowest of the low."

He turned to the youth club Ladbroke Grove for support who enrolled him on to Snow-Camp's programmes, and over the next year progressed to gain a Snowsport England Level 1 Snowboarding Instructor qualification.

"I never knew I wanted to snowboard for the rest of my life," Sami added. "That's because I didn't want to because it's a sport that people like me don't even consider.

"Snow-Camp has had a big effect on my personal life. I now feel like I can do something valuable and worthwhile with my time.

"My dream is to become a full-time snowboard instructor. Snowboarding has already inspired me to improve my life and I want to use it to have a positive impact on others."

Hamza's Story

Hamza training for his Snowboard Instructor qualification.
Snow-Camp's London programmes have been running since 2003 and have expanded to other cities across the UK

Like many boys of his age, 13-year-old Hamza didn't enjoy school; he was often getting into trouble and had no aspirations for his future.

His family were worried he may get involved with gangs and would struggle to gain any GCSEs so Hamza's youth worker got in touch with Snow-Camp.

Hamza connected to snow sports immediately and was willing to work hard in classroom activities just to be able to strap on a snowboard.

Hamza said: "Before Snow-Camp I didn't enjoy school... I did not think that I would enjoy snow sports or want to work hard in a classroom, but with Snow-Camp I do both of these things."

Like Jonjoe and Sami, Hamza completed the programme of training which led to him being awarded one of the charity's apprenticeships.

"I'm inspired to become a full-time snowboard and ski instructor, showing others the skills that can be learnt through these amazing sports," he said.

"I want to show young people from estates like mine that they too can become snowboard and ski instructors."

When Hamza finishes his apprenticeship in June 2017, his future is looking bright.

At the end of Snow-Camp's 2015 programme year, 85% of young people who completed their Journey of Programmes went on to either employment, training or further education.

To date, 90% of Snow-Camp apprentices gain a full-time job in the snow sports industry at the end of their apprenticeship.

A 'journey of programmes'

Snow-Camp participants with Olympic snowboarder Jenny Jones.
85% of Snow-Camp graduates have gone on to employment, training, further education or other positive destinations

Snow-Camp works directly with youth projects and youth service providers to find participants who are most in need of support.

The charity runs a full range of programmes for young people aged 13-21, taking them from their first experience of snowboarding or skiing, through to instructor training for the over-16s and, for five students a year, a paid full-time apprenticeship.

For every hour the trainees spend learning how to ski or snowboard, the same amount of time is spent in the classroom.

"When you look inside Snow-Camp's programmes, they train an individual to be able to control certain aspects of behaviour, to channel negative energy into positive energy and create the overall outcome of someone who could work in the same industry as me," said Warren Smith, international free skier and ambassador for the charity.

Sir Steve Redgrave is another supporter: "Snow-Camp is a fantastic charity helping those from deprived backgrounds do something positive.

"People say snow sports are for the elite, and rowing has that reputation too. Snow-Camp proves this is not necessarily the case."