Family Funded Woodland Projects

Families with children who have disabilities or mental health issues, very rarely get to take time out together and spend quality time as a family unit. When do they get to spend time with similar families or have a well-earned break and a bit of fun?

Parents often feel anxious about trying to do things together as a family and so give up – worrying about how their child will react or fear of being judged by the public eye.


FISS Family Day

At Circle of Life Rediscovery, we have been working in partnership with CAMHS (Child & Adolescent Mental Health Service) and FISS/LD (Family Intensive Support Service/Learning Disabilities) to offer bespoke family woodland days in a safe and natural environment – a valuable therapeutic tool for families with children who have complex needs such as learning difficulties, emotional and behavioural problems.

esfcaOur work has allowed families and especially siblings of these children, to experience normal life and have an everyday children’s experience in a relaxing, fun and life-affirming day together. Also a chance for parents to meet other parents of children with disabilities.

Through the activities offered enable these young people to experience something new and discover skills they didn’t realise they had,  such as how to light a fire and cook on it, engage in woodland crafts – making animals out of woodland materials, building shelters or weaving dream catchers to take home.

We sing together, make music and play games that focus on sensory needs including feeling the plants and leaves, touching and moulding clay. Following the seasons, we create crafts and share food together.

We explore social connections and relationships during our circle time and games – this allows the children to move away from their families at their own pace and engage with others, perhaps something they have never done before.  A highlight is providing head and shoulder massage too!


CAMHS Family Day



To see a child enter and experience the woods, especially a child with special needs is an amazing experience. But, to see how that child flourishes is magical and inspirational. They have no boundaries, no expectations – instead, we focus on what they CAN achieve.



Meet Fran Warry – in this inspirational and emotional speech, we meet a mother of a disabled daughter who attended one of our family funded days through FISS.

A Beautiful Day – a video about a Family’s day out in the woods with Circle of Life Rediscovery team and the FISS team.

Reaching to the Outdoors – a special day with CAMHS LD/FISS in the woods.

Feedback from a CAMHS LD/FISS staff member:

“I am a clinical psychologist working within the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service-Learning Disabilities / Family Intensive Support Service. I recently accompanied one of the families I work with on a woodlands project ‘Reaching to the outdoors’ family day. Due to challenging behaviours the young person can engage in when out in the community the family have become very restricted in where they are able to go and activities they can do together. The woodlands provided a safe environment to learn, play, create, explore and have a positive time together as a family. The enjoyment the family got from attending the day was evident.”

Feedback from a parent:

‘I felt relaxed, everyone has been friendly, open and made us feel welcome. It’s a very different experience. We have never had the chance to mingle with other autistic families. People here look after EVERYONE’s needs. It is real learning about how to spend time with your child and make it enjoyable for the whole family. Now I don’t feel as petrified about spending time with them running around. The massage was amazing. It’s the first time ever that I didn’t know where my children were but I was calm and knew they were safe. I don’t remember any other time when I felt so relaxed. I have just had a long and frank conversation with another parent. We have swapped numbers and will try and see each other as often as possible.

I now have positive energy, I feel stronger and confident. I know now that it can be good to be around other people. I don’t have fear anymore. I don’t have to worry about how other people feel about my child being different. If I could do this more I would come every week. From the other parents I have gained knowledge of where to go for help and support.



It would be good to meet parents in similar situations now I know I can ask for help, I don’t have to keep it just in the family. I was so isolated. If I had known earlier about this….now I feel I can talk about my problems and be understood, I have never experience this before. Thank you. You are all amazing people. These few hours will give me enough energy for the next few months.’




We are delighted that our Woodland Family Project has been shortlisted for the Innovation in Child, Adolescent and Young People’s Mental Health Award. Nominate now.

Earlier this year together with our Partners, we won the Silver Quality & Innovation Award for Positive Practice in Mental Health 2015.

If you would like to learn more about our Funded Projects, please visit our website.

Ceremony and the Modern World – by Salvatore Gencarelle

CircleRocksYou might be asking yourself “How is it possible that a “primitive” ceremony could possibly help the modern world.

The answer it this, the indigenous perspective is based on survival and how people relate to the Earth. Because they recognize that their life depends on a number of essential factors (connections) – they hold these to be sacred components of life.

The first sacred connection: How do you relate to the natural world?

The second sacred connection: How are you in relation to yourself?

The third sacred connection: How do you relate to your fellow human beings?

These are the three points of connection that indigenous life styles and philosophies continually reinforce. The natural mind recognizes that we have to consider these three factors every time a decision is to be made. Decisions that are healthy will positively reinforce these connections; decisions that are unhealthy will weaken the connections.

What I witness on a continual basis in the modern world are individuals and groups making decisions that are dis-connective. Dis-connective patterns quickly lead to dis-ease, which if not resolved will eventually lead to disease. Many people in this modern life are living in a perpetual state of dis-ease. We are all familiar with this state of being. It has become the norm in so many ways. The modern world makes it easy to disconnect. Dis-ease is now considered a standard part of life. Tension and stress is perceived as a normal state of being.

This internal tension is forcing us to become aware of our past – of how we got to this place of conflict with ourselves, each other, and the natural world. We often find ourselves searching for the wisdom of ancient indigenous peoples. Through this search we are brought back to the transformative healing connection power of indigenous ceremony.

Advanced Connection Practices

Passed down for generations of indigenous healers, these transformative and re-connective techniques have remained in hiding until recently. From the Native American traditions the universal ceremonies have been re-introduced to the modern world. The ceremonies of sweat lodge, vision quest, sacred drum, and sacred pipe have been taught to select individuals of the modern society to help bring these transformative ceremonies out to the modern people. These are the 4 universal gifts to all of humanity.

DrumSweat Lodge – Purification Rite through the power of the elements

Vision Quest – Connection Practice of deep immersion and isolation in nature

Sacred Drum – The heartbeat of the earth and the unity of community

Sacred Pipe – The tool of connection to creation, self, others, and spirit
These ceremonies, what I call the Advanced Connection Practices, are returning to the people of the world. As the patterns of trauma and disconnection are revealed we finally have the opportunity to transform and become healthy once more. We CAN have fulfilling lives of connection and love! We can heal the grief of the past and move towards a bright future of love, peace, and purpose.

By Salvatore Gencarelle

Salvatore has been through an intensive mentoring period with a Native American healer that required both dedication and sacrifice for 17 years as a ceremonial guide, creator, singer, and mentor, under the direct supervision. It was through this process he earned the responsibility to pass these teachings on. Salvatore is also an artist, photographer, freelance writer, a musician, and a former Paramedic. He is a healer working with both Native American traditions and those of the modern world.

Sal is the author of a book on his experiences entitled A Man Among the Helpers and has worked with 8 Shields for the past five years bringing his skills, experience and expertise as a teacher and mentor in advanced connection practices through the Leadership Initiation Project.

Sal will be visiting the UK this Autumn and will be offering workshops and talks in East Sussex, Devon, Glastonbury and Scotland. To find out more and to read details of our Transformative Learning training commencing in 2016, please click here.

The Sacred Pipe – The Legend of the ‘Canupa’

The Sacred Pipe is known as the Canupa in the Lakota language. The Canupa is an essential tool of connection. Of all the tools, it is the one which develops the deepest awareness. It creates an amplified connection with the intelligence that is commonly known as intuition. According to legend, the Canupa came to people a long ago in a time of great need. It was brought to the people to show how to live in right relation with the earth and all of creation.

The Lakota stories of how the Canupa came to the people hold important lessons and contain great wisdom, if one knows how to hear it. The following legend was told to me by Godfrey, my mentor. This story was passed to him from Horn Chipps, his grandfather. I now pass it on to you.


Legend of the Canupa

The Canupa came to humans back in the days when “the grandchildren were few.”

People were new to the Earth and did not know how to survive in this new environment.  They were dying. People did not yet understand the concept of sacredness, but they knew there were powers in this world. So they “sent a voice out” –  a prayer – to anything that would listen and respond to their cries for help.

An elder in the group had a dream.

The people’s cries for help had been heard. Help was coming. In this dream, the elder was instructed to send a young man into the wilderness to greet the help that was on its way. The elder told his dream to the people, and everyone gathered to hold a council.  During the council, they chose the best young man in the camp to go to meet whatever was coming.

The young man was made ready and walked out into the wilderness. As he left, another young man snuck out of camp and came to walk beside the first. This sneaky one was bad and only sought to benefit from the situation. The good young man allowed the bad one to travel with him into the wilderness as he looked for something, not knowing what.

After some time, they climbed a hill, where they could see out across the land. There they saw an object moving toward them, so they waited for it to come closer. As the object approached, they saw it was a beautiful young woman carrying a red bundle. Now, when the bad man saw this woman, he said they should rape her, because no one was around or would ever find out. The good one told this sneaky man to not say such things and to put those thoughts out of his mind, for she was “approaching in a mysterious manner.”

Finally, the woman reached the men and set her bundle down upon dried buffalo dung.  She told the bad man, “What is in your thoughts? Come do it.”

The good young man watched his companion go to the woman. A mist formed and covered them both. From within the mist, a scream like a dying animal resounded. The mist cleared and the woman stood there, but all that was left of the bad man was his bones. When the good man saw this, he was afraid and began to run away.

The woman commanded him to stop. She instructed him to have the people build a tipi with the door facing east, and that she would arrive at his camp when it was complete.  She told him that she was bringing something for all the people.

The man returned to the camp and told all that had happened, and explained what the people were to do. Over the next days the tasks were completed, just as this woman had instructed. When the people were done, the woman appeared, coming from the east towards the tipi they built. As she walked, she stopped four times and raised the bundle she carried over her head. After the fourth pause, she entered.

The people would normally have offered her something to eat, but at this time there was nothing but water with sweet grass dipped in it. After she took the water, she held council and gave instructions to the people. She presented the Sacred Pipe to the people and explained how they were to use it to pray. She also provided instructions on how people were to live upon the Earth in balance and harmony.

Before she left, she gave this warning: “If you ever do away with the Canupa, then a nation will be no more.”

After she completed her instructions, she exited the tipi and walked to the North. As she walked, she paused, and then wallowed in the dust four times. Upon the fourth time, she stood as a woman, and before the eyes of the people she turned into a buffalo calf and ran off to the North.

Just after the White Buffalo Calf Woman left, a man stepped forward. No one in camp knew this man or had ever seen him before. He also presented a gift to the people: the first bow and arrows. He then showed the people how to fashion bows and make arrows themselves. He taught them how to hunt and kill more efficiently.

From that day forth, as long as humans followed the White Buffalo Calf Woman’s instructions, they flourished in harmony with the Earth.

The Sacred Pipe brought life, and the bow and arrows brought death.  This is the balance.

By Salvatore Gencarelle.

A Man Among the Helpers.

Salvatore will be visiting the UK this Autumn and will be offering workshops and talks in East Sussex, Devon, Glastonbury and Scotland. To find out more and to read details of our Transformative Learning training commencing in 2016, please click here.