On the banks of Swartvlei, well hidden behind Cloud 9, is Outward Bound South Africa, an adventure camp that changes lives. Using nature and the outdoors as a classroom, they use physical challenges and activities to teach life skills, leadership qualities and values to live by.
Parents and youth leaders everywhere lament the fact that kids are spending too much time on the couch or in front of screens, while the world and all its dangers are forcing children to be raised in cocoons. Outward Bound SA offers a practical solution to get kids off the couch and get them in the bush to learn about themselves, transforming their lives.
During camps, ranging from 3 to 21 days, learners take part in a range of activities and challenges such as absailing, high and low rope activities, sailing, canoeing and raft building. Here they camp in tents underneath the stars, learn to read maps and live close to nature while cell phones and computer screens are safely packed away. With the Garden Route recently being declared a UNESCO biosphere reserve, the 9th in Africa, there is no better place to do this.
The first Outward Bound School was found in 1941 by Kurt Hahn and Lawrence Holt in Aberdovey, Wales. Kurt felt that young people were not prepared for the hardships of life on a mental, emotional or physical level and that qualities such as perseverance, compassion, initiative, fitness and life experience were lacking in the youth and wanted to give young men the ability to survive harsh conditions at sea during WWII. Hence the name Outward Bound, a nautical term that refers to the moment a ship leaves the harbour, as well as Outward Bound’s use of the nautical flag, Blue Peter to indicate that a camp is in session.
Outward Bound SA started in 1992 in Hogsback in the Eastern Cape, after a generous donation by a philanthropist in the United States, and moved to Sedgefield about 15 years ago. As an NGO, they are highly dependent on funding and donations and almost had to close their doors until Deon Snyders took over the reins about four years ago. Today Willow Point, the Sedgefield based Outward Bound SA camp, runs highly successful programmes for schools, corporations, rehab centres and struggling youth or youth at risk.
Willow Point is generally regarded as the global leader in safety standards. During camps and programmes each group, no larger than 14 learners, are accompanied by 2 instructors, including volunteers from the UK who visit them annually. Instructors all have Level 3 First Aid training and most have done duty as lifeguards making them proficient in both land and water safety with comprehensive medical support available.
With their unique person centred approach, their focus is on helping everyone to achieve their own personal goals during an activity. These are followed by discussions and reflections, identifying skills and experiences learners can take home and apply in their daily lives.
Although cell phones are not allowed, Outward Bound SA posts daily updates on social media to keep parents informed while a report and pictures are sent to parents or schools once a course has been completed.
From 11 – 15 December 2017, Willow Point will have their annual Summer Camp for grade 4 to 7 learners. Garden Route kids will be picked up from Sedgefield Primary School while Willow Point will gladly pick up kids at the national bus point in Sedgefield. The cost of the camp is R 1500 including all meals, camping equipment and activities.
Everyone who has ever attended an Outward Bound SA programme, whether it was for a corporate team building, a leadership course or a diversion programme, agree that it is a life changing experience.
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