At 21 years of age, I didn’t think I had much going for me. I went on a Prince’s Trust 12 week Personal Development Program. It changed my perspective and my life. We did an outdoor residential for our second week. I was identified as having leadership qualities (which was news to me!). We did all sorts of outdoor activities (raft building, climbing, team building, canoeing), which really made me realise I have passion for what these activities can do for the participants. It made me realise that I can do the things which I think I cannot do. At the end of the week, the instructor turned around to me and said ‘You could do my job.’ That conversation kindled a spark to flame. It was 2004, and I decided to follow my dream of becoming an outdoor instructor.
I found a college course in Leeds in Outdoor Activity Leadership. I ended up doing 2 years of NVQ’s and a 3 year degree in Outdoor Education. During that time I gained valuable experience in a vast range of activities. Caving, Climbing, Canoeing, Mountain Walking and Expeditions (which were my favorite), team building and more. I learned how to get the most out of the activities by writing a reflective log. We don’t always get things right, but an experience of getting something wrong can be seen as problem or a learning opportunity. And I learned a lot! ‘The only true mistakes are the ones we don’t learn by.’
Now I draw from my experiences and have the privilege of working with a great team and fantastic young people with the project. I love passing on skills and being there to encourage and nurture those around me. It’s a two way process, I am still growing and have a lot to learn.
I see adventurous training as a medium for personal development. I think it is so needed in our society. Young people, having experienced an expedition, will hopefully realise that anything worth doing is not going to be easy. If it was, everybody would be doing it! Walking with a big rucksack on for many miles is a challenge for most people, but it is of benefit to the soul. To reconnect with God’s creation, to be among friends together, enduring an arduous journey and creating bonds. This can have a huge impact on the participants like nothing they have ever done before. They learn things about themselves that, perhaps, have never had chance to come to the surface or never noticed they had. And maybe, just maybe…it will change their lives as much as it changed mine.