Learning New Skills in Morocco

Turning Winds organizes international service trips abroad for clients twice a year. They have become a big part of the therapeutic experience for our teenage clients since the focus is on helping other people. 

Traveling to foreign countries to be immersed in other cultures and help people less fortunate than ourselves is an exciting opportunity to gain new perspectives and boost self-confidence—especially in young people.

“We’ve had international service trips for about half a decade now,” says Turning Winds CEO Owen Baisden. “I had experiences abroad when I was a kid and they were powerful because life in the United States can be quite different from what the rest of the world experiences.” 

So far, Turning Winds has taken clients to Costa Rica, Peru, Ghana, Thailand, Greece, and last year to Panama and Guatemala. In the spring of this year, it was off to Morocco. As on previous occasions, it was the first international trip for most of the kids. 

“Even just going through customs was an exciting, novel experience for them,” says program director Enoch Stump. “Right away they were communicating with people who had no idea how to communicate with them. It was interesting to watch our kids interacting with someone who doesn’t speak their language. Some of our kids were very dynamic handling this but this was one of the first culture shocks they experienced when they got off the plane in Morocco.”

Therapeutically, “these service trips speak for themselves; there are so many therapeutic aspects,” explains Turning Winds therapist Sean Carlin. “The kids learn new skills, we took them to daycares where they worked with children teaching them English and playing games with them.”

Another group taught English to adults, learning new skills on the fly and going into situations they were not accustomed to. “That means they had to overcome some of their own fears, a lot of our kids are dealing with anxiety issues,” says Carlin. “They were building relations not only with one another but also with people on the ground in Morocco. And that’s the extra we’re getting from a service trip. We were also still doing therapy groups every night, processing what we saw and setting goals.”

The positive impact was very visible. “The kids were amazing, they were some of the most respectful, inspired human beings you can imagine,” rejoices Carlin. “Not only did we not see any inappropriate behavior, they were amazing ambassadors for the United States to the Moroccan people.”

Dealing with the unexpected is part of the learning process. “When we went in there they had their own cultural expectations of Morocco, but the country and the people were not exactly what they expected,” says program manager Tara Stevers. For example, “they were shocked by the approach Moroccans had to parenting—a valuable lesson on how judgment works. We prejudged them and they prejudged us but we were able to diversify from that and teach each other. Through their culture, the kids learned how important family is. Several of our kids talked about learning how in our culture we do everything we can to get away from our parents at the age of 18 and they don’t. They take pride in taking care of their elders and taking care of their household—our kids learned to look at their parents and family from a different point of view.”

Sean Carlin agrees. “We get a lot of teenagers at Turning Winds who have burned every bridge possible, alienated themselves. Most people in their lives would have given them labels and not very positive labels. What we do at Turning Winds and what we did on this trip is build relations.

That’s our foundation, we build a relationship with these kids and we do it in a very structured environment.” 

After six months of building up that therapeutic relationship, the kids are ready to go on a service trip like the one to Morocco. “Because of the relationship we have with those kids we were able to go through the entirety of this trip without serious problems. We can watch the acquired relationship skills translate to behavior on the ground. We land in Morocco and you start to see these kids use those skills they have been learning for the past six months and develop relationships with people in Morocco in a week’s time.”

“When it was time to leave after a week, there were actually tears,” recalls Carlin. “The Moroccans served up a feast on the final day. It all starts with those relationships here at Turning Winds. That’s why we are so successful. If you don’t have those relationships in treatment, it’s not going to inspire change and a positive outcome.” 

Last year, Turning Winds celebrated its 20th anniversary. It all began with the simple desire to help young lives see a new path. In two decades, the program has matured into a sophisticated program that blends the benefits of a wilderness program, a residential treatment center, and a boarding school.

Our mission is to rescue teens from crisis situations, renew their belief in their own potential, reunite them with their families, and put them on a sustainable path to success. Contact us online for more information, or call us at 800-845-1380. If your call isn’t answered personally, we will get back to you as soon as possible.


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John Baisden, Jr

John Baisden, Jr

John Baisden Jr is the father of seven inspiring children, and he is married to Kara, the love of his life. Together they have created a family-centered legacy by leading the way with early childhood educational advancement. John loves to write and is an author of a children’s book, An Unlikely Journey and plans to publish additional books. Show More

John is a visionary in his work and applies “outside-the-box” approaches to business practice and people development. He is the Founder of Turning Winds, along with several other organizations. He has extensive experience launching and developing organizations. His skills include strategic planning, promoting meaningful leader-member movement, organizational change, effective communication, project management, financial oversight and analysis, digital marketing and content creation, and implementing innovative ideas through influential leadership. As a leader, John seeks to empower others and brand success through collaborative work. His vision is to lead with courage, grit, truth, justice, humility, and integrity while emphasizing relational influence rather than focusing on the sheens of titles, positions, or things.

Finally, John is passionate about life and promoting equity among those who are often overlooked because of differences that frequently clash with the “norm.” He lives in Southern Idaho and loves the outdoors and the life lessons that can be learned in such an informal environment.

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