ECPA awards 2011/France – Showing young people a way out of delinquency through mountain activities

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Paris, October 31, 2011 – The entry for France for the European Crime Prevention Awards is an original initiative led by the association “En passant par la montagne” (EPPM), which means “Going through the mountain”. It consists in taking small groups of “difficult” young people for a trip in the mountain, during which they practice mountain-climbing or trekking as a means to learn a new way of life that will help them get out of the vicious circle of delinquency.

This project entitled “Mountain as a school of life” has received the French Crime Prevention Award. The prize was given to the association during a ceremony that took place on October 27, 2011, at the town hall of Paris.

Created in 1995, the association signed a convention in 2002 with the Judicial Protection of Youth (Protection judiciaire de la Jeunesse), which was reconducted in 2010, and another one in 2011 with the inter-regional penitentiary administration of the Rhône Alpes region. Youngsters are led to the programme through these two institutions, who recommend EPPM to the education teams who are in contact with them (schools, halfway houses, Minors Centres…), whenever EPPM’s objectives and activities are in line with their own educational objectives.

The key concept behind this initiative is to use high mountain as a mediation tool for actions geared towards young people who are at risk of committing a crime or reoffending. By being immersed in a very imposing natural environment they have never been in contact with, they learn to respect a set of rules, to establish a relation of trust with the adults who accompany them, to take into consideration the needs of the group they are part of, and to discover in themselves resources and skills they didn’t know they had. By living all these experiences, they discover a new way of life and values that they can use afterwards when back in their cities and neighbourhoods, in order to stay away from trouble.

Stays last between five and six days, and usually take place in the French or Swiss Alps. Each trip is taylor-made for a specific group of youngsters, and they are involved in its preparation together with their educational team and EPPM. Before taking the trip, they follow a training that includes psychological and physical exercices. Once on location, they practice mountain sports with professionals, and spend a night or two in the wilderness, sleeping in a refuge or camping. Also, they participate in daily activities such as collecting wood and preparing meals, and do other chores such as organising a refuge at the start of the season or cleaning up trekking paths.

At the end of the stay, an evaluation is conducted with all the participants: youngsters, educational team and mountain professionals. A second evaluation is done a few weeks after by the institution that supervises the youngsters.

In 2010, the association “Going through the mountain” managed 22 projects for a total of 189 young people. The number of professionals involved was 79. EPPM is now looking to develop activities with Spanish associations in the Pyrenees.

Association “En passant par la montagne”