Eight days can feel like a short time or it can feel like a life time. This was confirmed by the youth from our Center who participated in the exchange program “Stronger for Tomorrow”, hosted by Outward Bound in the Lika region of Croatia.
With all the interesting content on the course, outdoor adventures, social interaction, and group activities, it seemed as if the days passed very quickly. By the end all participants wanted to stay longer and they couldn’t believe how quickly the time had passed. Over the eight days all the participants learned more than anyone would expect.
The program is designed in such a way that takes participants out of their ‘comfort zone’ and into their ‘learning zone’ by providing challenges that stretch what they thought they were capable of, with each day offering new goals and new successes.
Over the next few days they prepared for an expedition. During this time you could see the youth grow as they learnt practical skills and acquired new knowledge, the most dramatic changes however was when their confidence grew during the activities.
Personally I was most impressed by the changes I observed in one particular boy when the group spent their first night in the camp. His whole posture complete changed, he stood upright, you could see him smiling and he was walking around the camp in a cheerful mood and offering to help others.
Before the group set off on their expedition, this particular boy was teased by other members of the group, this resulted in conflict with others or his withdrawal and a reduction in his communication with others. By the end of the program he had established friendships with everyone on the course and had become a role model within the group. Confidence was only one of many features that was developed within the group over our 8 day course.
We are working with specific groups of young people and our major priority is to develop their sense of responsibility. From this perspective it is very interesting to see the 16 young people on this camp take full responsibility for organising themselves. This was seen when they shared group tasks, participants took ownership of their own tasks and when they offered to help others.
This program was a collision with reality for participants as they learnt about how each action they took had consequences. If they made a fire, they would be warm and have a hot dinner. If they made a good bivouac, they would be comfortable and have a safe place to sleep.
The approach had tremendous results with the group. The raised awareness of the consequences of their behaviour will serve them in the near future as it provided them with the intrinsic motivation to be the best version of themselves, which they displayed on this program.
Instructors were subtle but impressive leaders through the whole process. They gave participants enough knowledge to prepare them for situations in the program and gave them independence to learn and grow as they applied the knowledge without assistance. Even if this meant letting participants make mistakes. During these times when things were going wrong were especially important because the participants were able to cope with challenges by themselves, overcoming their fears and uncertainties.
Participants who attended the program are both empowered by the role they had in the program and have developed optimism from their experience. Memories and impressions from this program (and for us who joined them) will be with participants for a long time. Every day we are exploring what possibilities we have for participating in more Outward Bound programs and how we will present what we learnt on our program to others at the Center and the wider community.
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