22–23 Mar 2025 240 days to go! #GetOutside

Deon Barrett

I had a very conflicted childhood due to a lack of identity through racial and discrimination, bullying and the lack of a positive role model. Over time this caused deep depression and anxiety, which led to suicide attempts at an early age.

Growing up in the urban outskirts of the Southwest of London and due to my environment, I found myself descending on the wrong path, leading to being embedded in the local gang culture. Luckily through my mother’s passion to travel and bring me along I was able to be exposed to new landscapes.

Acquiring academic education in school was not my forte in my early years, except for getting into trouble. Learning has always been a difficult endeavour for me, and this continues to be a challenge. After I was diagnosed with Dyslexia this enabled me to adopt an unorthodox approach to learning.

In January 2022 I set out to inspire the younger generation through my own adversity that I have faced, in doing so created the “True North project” and with that sharing the idea of being able to “find your true north”.

I joined the British Armed Forces in May of 2015 where I had gone into phase one training. This drove me to being resilient but most of all reinstalled my love for the outdoors.  I had the opportunity to travel the world and enjoyed some fantastic roles that a lot of people may not get to experience.

After eight years I had decided to leave in pursuit of growing and scaling up the True North Project. I felt it was time as I knew there was a lot of work to be done in creating outdoor opportunities for others.

As a black man interested in the outdoors, I have set out to empower others like me through my various expedition. I am undertaking extreme expeditions into some of the world’s most remote and high-risk environments. The reason for choosing these areas is because there is an underrepresentation of black people within outdoor spaces and across many different disciplines, and this is something I want to challenge. I am working on becoming one of the first black brits to stand at the summit of mount Everest by 2025.

I believe that it is in our best interest that we endeavour to bring outdoor education to the forefront of all young minds. With this thought in mind I set out to research what our nations schools have in place to bring outdoor learning to their students through what I call the “YOUTH INITIATIVE”. It came to my attention that schools rarely have the support or have the backing to implement this within their curriculum. Unfortunately, these efforts are currently arranged by the schools independently with very limited assistance from outside resources, leaving it up to the teachers to arrange days out in their own time. The caveat being that there is also not enough time spent training staff throughout the established schools in becoming outdoor leaders themselves at some capacity. This is an ongoing effort of mine with plans to make an impact to public schools in cities around the UK.

I feel that outdoor education is as important to students as other subjects we currently teach and it is paramount to bring awareness to this. So my campaign to work with government and the Department for Education will hopefully make the difference needed.

I am also available to help in creating opportunities, safe trips to the mountains to further develop the schools aim to increase the value of their students within the great outdoors. I believe that this campaign will boost self-esteem, maturity and provide essential life skills by equipping young people with the right tools and attitude to promote their own mental resilience.