Outward Bound South Africa- 2006

I had the opportunity of spending 3 days at OBSA, in Sedgefield, near Knysna over the Easter Break while on holiday in Cape Town. Well it is set in the most picturesque of areas, surrounded by lakes and mountains on all sides.  After meeting the group of pupils, they are all divided into smaller groups, and I was asked to shadow a group.  We played icebreaker games, and spent time getting to know each other, as well as setting out what the objectives for the week were.  Schools come to OBSA, as part of their experiential learning curriculum, and the teachers set objectives for the group ahead of time.  These objectives enable OBSA to create a plan, that will cater to these outcomes. 

For the school I worked with, their desired outcomes were to increase team working, personal capacity and development.  The groups leave the base for 5 days, only returning for the final night and it is truly a real wild environment that they have to endure. Wednesday evening was spent dividing up group kit, tents, sleeping bags rucksacks and a supply of food.  The group is asked to elect a leader and 2 environmental officers, since they operate a "leave no trace" policy at all wild campsites.  After this, the group is tasked with deciding what food they wish to carry, how to divide it up and what to leave behind. All decisions are reached through consensus,  thus developing leadership and teamwork.  Dinner is provided by the kitchen and it is an early night for all.  Thursday morning sees the group woken at 6am for PT at 6:15 for an hour, followed by a dip, (this is an everyday occurrence), followed by breakfast at 7:15.  Breakfast is made on the team's gas stoves, and acts as a test drive for the next 5 days when students are in the wild.  Some of that porridge looked a bit dodge...but hey, lessons are learned!  We then set off in a sail/rowing boat for an unknown destination.  Again teamwork is used to achieve goals, and the distance rowed is quite considerable (about 6 hours rowing or sailing if you are lucky).  After mooring, you then shoulder your kit, and hike up into the gorge for about an hour.  Here we started to set up an abseil for the girls to descend the 35m down the cliff face.  I must say most were brave, but there were a few that came to value the safety of terra firma!  We set up camp in the rain, made dinner and went to bed early again. 

Friday, saw us up at 6:30am for PT and breakfast, followed by the rest of the group completing the abseil, and then the pack up of the campsite.  We then set off around 10am for our day of hiking.  We hiked for about 13km's to the second campsite, where team games are played on the beach.  All through the experience, students are asked to review their experiences and actions, and hopefully make more sense from their experience.  All activities are set to engage the learner at a deeper level than just an activity to be completed.  Discussion of leadership issues, strengths and weaknesses are guided by OBSA staff to help this facilitation.  I was amazed to see the changes starting to happen in the group, only after 2 days. 

The little fractures were starting to appear, and it is very apparent that a longer program, such as this one, will produce more benefits, than an activity camp where students have less contact with the leader, do not go through any group dynamics, and are never pushed out of their comfort zone. I really enjoyed the group contact and the opportunity to see what my degree is all about and to be able to make sense of all the dynamics, and the program goals. 

See some photo's here of the group in action