Despite the prevailing pandemic, the FOLM project in Spain is a huge success!

Credits: FOLM

This is mainly about recruitment: how many people have been recruited? What is the current pandemic situation? How does the pandemic affect recruitment?

The FOLM Project began in Spain in March 2009 with the Pilot Phase (3 expeditions) and in September the Delivery Phase (8 expeditions) began to be implemented until the 12thof March of 2020, when a state of alarm and isolation was declared throughout the country. This forced the interruption of the expeditions of the FOLM Project. Until that moment, 101 young people had participated.

At that time, the Spanish Ministry of Health published the number of cases reported nationwide. There were 5,753, with Madrid, Catalonia and the Basque Country being the most affected autonomous communities.

At the end of March 2020, 15 days after the establishment of the State of Alarm for the coronavirus in Spain, 78,797 positive cases of coronavirus had been recorded, with 6,528 deaths.

During the months of confinement in Spain, we worked on making ourselves more visible in social media (with a view to subsequent recruitment), preparation of material, as well as continuing with the development of online coaching and mentoring.

These were hard months with a lot of uncertainty about the viability of the project. Even so, we created a Protocol to be able to develop the expeditions in the safest way.

By July the 7thwe were able to resume the expeditions again until November 4th. During that timeframe we resumed 20 expeditions with the consequent logistica, staff and recruitment effort that this entailed in order to train 209 participants during four months of uninterrupted expeditions.

Finally, on November 4th, were about to took place the last two expeditions of the year, two groups of 11 participants. These were meant to be our last expeditions in order to reach our aim: 33 expeditions and 330 participants in FOLM-Spain. Unfortunately, the same day we were about to start, in Cantabria was declared the perimeter closing by municipalities and we received the order to cancel the expeditions that were in progress and we were forced to go back home. This meant that we ended 2020 without meeting the target, with 20 participants still to be trained.

For this recruitment we used different institutions and entities, both public and private. As well as the exploitation of the RRSS, especially Instagram, dynamizing them continuously with daily publications, direct, videos, testimonials of trainers and participants and other dissemination actions.

These efforts allowed us to reach the number of followers and interactions in large numbers. In addition, dissemination actions were carried out in several radio stations in the region of Cantabria other digital media. As well as talks organized in different parts of Cantabria to make the project known by institutions and organizations as well as to potential participants that may be interested on the FOLM Project and especially to their families.

To reach the figure of 332 participants we had to send more than 25,000 e-mails, in addition to the dissemination in RRSS, talks and especially the word of mouth of our participants, those who communicated the existence of FOLM to their friends and closest environment. Thanks to all this, we received as a response the interest of about 1,200 people to be members of one of the FOLM expeditions. In the end, only a third of them decided to participate in this great adventure.

In order to filter this great interest, we have two people in charge of these tasks, working full time. Awe have to be flexible in order to schedule the dates of the expeditions taking into account the availability of those participants that were interested on joining the Project.

Due to the fact that we are targeting a very volatile sector, young people from 18 to 29 years old, in terms of decision making and commitment, it is very difficult for their initial enrollment in the Project to end with their participation in it. By carrying out individualized interviews, previous meetings, complementing information, until finally reaching the objective of getting them to take part in one of our outdoor learning expeditions.

The reasons why young people are encouraged to participate in FOLM are very diverse and not only as a form of labor insertion. Here we could point out their passion or a new way of approaching nature or see expeditions as a challenge or a form of adventure. Also, as a mean to socialize with other young people similar to themselves, but outside their usual environment, to make new friendships and relationships, which otherwise would not be possible.

The program is ideal for fostering self-esteem among those who take part in it, as well as a very enriching form of self-knowledge on a personal level. But it is also mainly a way to consider their own future with objectives and challenges in the short and medium term, with the mind set on training or insertion into the labor market, not easy for the profile of users of the program.

Furthermore, we must also recognize that after the suspension of the outdoors phase and the resumption of it, we truly believe that this confinement played in our favor. The population, especially young people, were eager to get out of their homes, to be able to move around and travel, more than ever before. Above all, they had missed the contact with nature during the months of home confinement and FOLM offered them that possibility to have such a wonderful experience in the outdoors and having the chance to meet new people. So our efforts were somewhat rewarded with the influx of interested people, but the work of this management was also multiplied exponentially.

We are very pleased that we only had 3 voluntary departures during these almost 2 years of the Project. Only four minor health emergencies (three sprains, an allergic reaction to a sting and an anxiety attack) that did not even force them to abandon the expedition they were taking part in. For us, not having any cases of coronavirus in our groups was a great success and a proof that the established health protocols were strictly followed.

Currently, in March 19thof 2021, due to the health situation, Cantabria is not allowed to carry out leisure activities for children and young people. For what, we have pending to make the last expeditions of the project to reach our aim. Therefore, we are waiting for the approval of new health measures that will allow us to go out again for outings in the natural environment. As of today, is not possible to carry out this type of activities, meetings of more than 6 people are not allowed. In addition, there is a curfew from 22:00 to 06:00 hours. Also, in Spain we are still in state of alarm.

For these reasons we do not have a defined date to start the expeditions. Once we receive the authorization from the sanitary authority, we expect to be able to make the first departure in 3-4 weeks after being notified, since we need a minimum of time for recruiting, hiring trainers, setting up and checking the equipment.  The following weeks, we are going to hold a webinar on-line for social workers in the southern area of Cantabria.

We hope that soon the health situation will be favorable to resume the activity and be able to conclude with the objectives assigned within FOLM, with all the guarantees.



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