This letter was emailed to us by a parent after a recent Outward Bound program in Walpole, WA. It is shown here exactly as it was written to us and is shared with permission. The image above is from Outward Bound’s image library and not the author of this letter.
With the rest of my family having completed Outward Bound, it was time for me to strap on my hiking boots, a pack and adventurous spirit. What an inspiring ten days I have spent with 15 wonderful young people.
I’ve hiked in WA, NZ and the Himalayas, but nothing quite prepared me for some new challenges like those thrown at us in the Walpole wilderness. An unseasonably wet year saw us tramping, clambering and bushbashing in rain through full swamps and creeks, setting up bivvies on ‘expedition’ sites (any flat, available ground), along with the marauding mozzies. The hikers’ rule of avoiding wet boots and sleeping gear was soon crushed. Even in torrential NZ rain, I’ve previously been rewarded with fire warmed, insulated cabins at night. In Nepal, porters carry packs. But this is Outward Bound, innately designed to challenge, to push us to an edge, that allows us to leap into a new world of self-discovery. And boy, did the kids embrace that with gusto!
Blisters, bites, fear, fatigue, cold, and impatience were overcome as these young people radiated courage, compassion and collaboration. There were some, who despite their own tired legs, would circle back to the end of our congo line to guide and encourage weary team mates. There were others, who despite packs being full to overflowing, would sweep down to pick up the wet food bag left over on the ground. Others still, would wake at dawn with a spring in their step, albeit in soggy boots, ready to motivate others to rise. Individual strengths were drawn upon in navigation, cooking or energising the group through jokes, songs and happy banter.
In daily, reflective discussion, the adults were impressed by many insightful, philosophical and grateful comments made, words like ‘resilience’, ‘conquering’, ‘new confidence’. Even more moving was in students acknowledging others’ gifts not seen in school but that shone on camp.
Our groups were led by young, multi-talented instructors. Some only a few years older than our students, and yet geared with bush skills and people skills, they led with confidence, calm, insight and deep knowledge. They knew when to challenge and when to step back for the experiences to serve as learning moments (often hard for us adults as we see the navigators take the wrong turn leading to a more arduous or longer route!). They showed ways to be resourceful and innovative. These instructors are perfect role models for our youth!
Eighty years ago, Kurt Hahn, driven by observation of the demise of young war recruits founded Outward Bound. Today our young people face a different war, of mental health, a pandemic and growing disengagement. I observe this daily in my workplace and as an educator, I am fully aware the classroom does not always provide the right place to counter these issues. Fortunately, there are programs like Outward Bound, along with wealth of research showing benefits of being in nature and the outdoors. How blessed we are to have wilderness on our doorstep and one of the few WA schools supporting this unique program.
I encourage you to jump online (after a bushwalk!) to support the Outward Bound Australia and UK website and Facebook groups. Check out their other youth programs offered, but above all keep up the super work with raising your courageous, beautiful children. I’m excited and hopeful for a world that will be led and nurtured by kids like these. May the spirit of Outward Bound carry them strongly into their futures and they remember…
“There is more in us than we know. If we could be made to see it; perhaps, for the rest of our lives we will be unwilling to settle for less”. Kurt Hahn
Parent and Adult Assistant 2021