Comeragh Wilderness Academy is based on the model of care developed by Mr. Campbell Loughmiller, which dates back to the 1940s. By the 1970s, it had become widely operational in the United States. Campbell Loughmiller, known as the father of therapeutic camping, implemented the ideas of L.B. Sharp, who is considered the father of experiential education.
Their aim was simple: to create a therapeutic camping program. This initiative paved the way for other services to adopt their model of care. Here in Ireland, Comeragh Wilderness Academy has taken the lead in implementing this approach, not only through camping but also as the first independent boarding school of this kind in the country.
The model provides a unique opportunity for young individuals who face educational and behavioral challenges to confront their problems directly. To ensure that staff members are well-versed in the Loughmiller model, they undergo training at established camps in the United States, where they learn the intricacies of this model of care.
“A man who is kind benefits himself, but a cruel man hurts himself.”
At Comeragh Wilderness Academy, we take great pride in our adaptation of the model to Irish culture. It offers a one-of-a-kind experience that allows young individuals to reconnect with their roots and discover their true selves. Although there may be challenges along the way, these challenges are met with solutions and support from their fellow campmates and camp chiefs. The ultimate goal is for each young person to embark on a journey of self-discovery, find strength in nature, identify their weaknesses, and learn effective coping strategies for the future.
By implementing the Loughmiller model, a transformative process unfolds, granting the young person the necessary space to absorb and rediscover their education, which might have faded away over time due to the burdens of fear, rejection, or self-doubt. Within this model, the true essence of the young person is unearthed and nurtured, enabling their genuine self to flourish once again.
Research conducted in the United States has shown that many children who face challenges within the education system and who participate in this program return to school within 10 months to two years, performing at or above the academic level of their peers.
Comeragh Wilderness Academy spans 46 acres of land against the backdrop of the Comeragh Mountains. The camp provides an independent school experience for 10 children, overseen by two Chiefs. The children live in lodge-style tents arranged in a village-like setting, complete with porches, toilets, cooking facilities, and more. The classroom for education extends far beyond the camp’s boundaries and encompasses the vast lands and rivers throughout the southeast coastal area of Ireland.