Respect, resilience and perseverance are just some of the traits Sandy Point teenager Tom Lindsay-Eschbank is developing by participating in a nine day boot camp at a remote part of Queensland’s Gold Coast hinterland.
Tom, 14, is one of 60 teenagers in the Veteran Mentors Junior Leaders Program, which is managed by a group of ex-servicemen and women who wanted to use their military training to help children who are facing problems, such as, technology addiction, bullying and low self-esteem.
The program was designed for children nine to 17 and aims to help them become in touch with nature and learn how to communicate without technology.
It also encourages them to push their personal limits and face their fears including heights.
Tom said he knew he’d been disrespectful and irresponsible at times prior but wanted to take a new approach.
“I know I don’t do the best things at times. I have been getting in trouble a lot and my mum thought going on the program would be good for me,” he said.
“Day one was pretty average but once we got past the hard stuff it has been fun. I want to become a carpenter and go to trade school next year so I know I need to make changes.”
Former Afghanistan veteran and director of veteran mentors Glenn Filtness said he and the team has a passion for helping young people and using their military training to mentor young people like Tom.
“We are determined to help kids become accountable for their behaviour and decisions,” Mr Filtness said.
“After much discussion we realised the best way for us to pass on the knowledge and experience we had developed in the military was to run a program that could support a wide range of children.
“Some children who join the program may be demonstrating poor behaviours, low self-esteem, lack of respect, addiction to technology or issues with drugs and alcohol, while others may just need to be propelled forward to reach their full potential.”
He said the program could also help young people who were anxious and concerned about where they were heading in the future.
“We teach the children strategies and skills including mental and physical resilience, effective communication, conflict resolution and how to manage fear and stress.
“For me, I have a passion for health and fitness so I am determined to help everyone on the program understand the importance of good nutrition and exercise.
“We set these young people challenges that they must get through together as a team, just like we do in the military environment. That said, we don’t teach the kids combat skills – rather we focus on giving them the ability to deal with conflict and situations outside of their comfort zone.”
Glenn said Veteran Mentors’ programs had proved to be successful.
“We’ve seen a significant difference in each individual by the end of the program. We are focused on transforming lives and at the end of the day it makes us all proud. We are proud of the children but also proud of each other for helping them move forward.
“Most of the sign-ups have come from word of mouth referrals – parents and carers telling others about the positive changes they are seeing every day in their children.”
The Veteran Mentors also do motivational speaking and smaller team building sessions at schools, as well as parent workshops.
The next program is set to run from December 15 to 23.