Building up the youth
I once read that adventure sports helps one adapt to real-life situations and prepares you for a competitive work environment.
Maybe it's this realisation that has prompted many institutions to send their students and employers for such camps. And now more and more people are relying on adventure sports training camps to teach life skills to youth.
It was not that far back when adventure was considered to be solely for adventurers. While many countries in the West began adopting this method of training, Sri Lanka having realised this in recent times, has also started adopting this method. Many believe, and it has been proven, that adventure sports helps one in adapting to real-life situations and inculcates a competitive work environment.
No one knows about this better than Peter Stewart, Director for Adventure Asia International (Pvt) Ltd, which offers such courses for corporate as well as education institutions.
Adventure Asia, as it is known here, was first based in Nepal, and Peter has been moving around Asia with travel related activities. With the problems that had arisen in Nepal, and the peace process that was taking place in Sri Lanka, in 2002, Adventure Asia moved to Sri Lanka.
One of the main reasons for this move was also the reputation of what Sri Lanka offered. Sri Lanka, long considered only a "cultural" destination was gradually developing into an "outdoor" destination as well, with wide ranging options for adventure.
"It was definitely exotic, and it had a good reputation for what it offered," adds Peter explaining that after touring Sri Lanka and seeing the optimism of everyone for such things, he went along and made the move. "One thing I didn't expect was the strong interest in training and development the people had," he adds.
Speaking about what they have to offer, he explains that they have two programmes; one for their corporate clients and the other for the youth. Through their programmes aimed at youth, their main focus point is the development of their ideas. Through these programmes, an attempt is made to get the students involved, rethink and reframe their thoughts.
The programme offered by Adventure Asia, has different aspects to it. When it comes to team building, it gets broken down to the more simple things, such as their ability to communicate with each other, and willingness to solve problems. "What we hope to teach is how to work with the dynamics of a group," says Peter explaining that it is important to understand that each person is different within a group. According to him it's important that you draw on your own experiences and be willing to harness ideas.
As for using adventure sports and the outdoors to instil such skills within the youth, the thinking behind it is very simple. Nowadays young adults are always motivated to do something new and want to get them selves involved in something or the other. "But most often they lack direction, and they don't know where to start, not forgetting that they have very protective families," says Peter. What they do through this programme is give these people an opportunity to experience something that is beyond normal.
The duration of most of their programmes are two days with an overnight stay. When dealing with young adults, especially students, there is as always an issue with regard to permission. "It's important that the school authorities are confident and comfortable with us," says Peter explaining that before the programme, they are given the chance to visit their training camp in Hanwella, while the basic programme is explained.
Listening to the basic concept of the programme, it is clear that this is a great opportunity for kids. Through this training, students get motivated to do something new, while giving them the opportunity to understand themselves better. The range of activities that are done helps them to change their thoughts and ways of thinking. This helps them understand that there is something beyond just hanging out with friends and killing time.
Through these adventure sports, the student get the opportunity to develop both their mind and body. "Here they start to harness these aspects and when it merges, the experience is more rounded," he adds, explaining that this in a sense is a personal challenge for the students.
During their training camps, the students are taken to their facility in Hanwella, which is away from everything that is familiar to them, and thus it requires them to get comfortable with their surroundings. From that point onwards it’s fun and adventure for these kids. They are put on a new platform and given things that they normally wouldn't do. These new experiences and the understanding of what they are capable of, helps them to become well rounded and complete.
Another aspect of their programme is the indoor segment of it. This is limited to a day but it too is mixed with outdoor activities. Starting off the day with a group discussion, they help the students build a framework of the amount of groundwork that needs to be covered. Here the students are asked to challenge themselves and others, and to have a target on what they want to achieve. At the end of the program they can look back and judge what they have achieved through the programme.
Personally, Peter feels that we should be asking the question of what sort of kids we are bringing up at present. With the lack of opportunities available, he feels that future leaders are being made too soft.
While all the activities that are done during both their indoor and outdoor training have a competitive element in it, the reason for this is not the same. "Having competitiveness brings out a natural positive response to it," says Peter explaining that they are not trying to see who is faster or better, instead put them in a win-learn situation.
Here the concept they are adopting is that even though you loose, you do learn something, so in the end you are a winner. "We always say that the person who makes the most amount of mistakes in the end comes out as a winner, because he or she has learnt a lot in the end," he adds.
Time and time again, it has been observed that such programmes, do help the youth, in terms of -confidence, personal responsibility, fitness and teamwork. But how does this happen?
When participants are provided aggressively challenging situations and opportunities, they have to develop a will to overcome them. Achieving this, they discover that they possess far more inner strength than they knew. The training empowers these young adults with the confidence, tenacity, and skills necessary to deal with the ups and downs of life.
The activities comprised situations that the participants must work through, either on their own or in a group. The team building games are fun as well as useful, Geared to introduce them to a world where trust is an important factor. The challenge might be sleeping out in the wilderness under the stars for the first time or navigating a rope's course strung high above rushing water and boulders.
What occurs is that while grappling with the intricacies of equipment and techniques, they also get in touch with their inner core. And it is through this that the process of understanding of what they are capable of, takes place.