Thursday, June 4, 2015

Alumni Profile: Dylan

Dylan first came to OBC in grade 9 when his school visited Evergreen Brick Works for a day of teambuilding and climbing on the MacDougall Outward Bound Challenge Tower. This experience sparked something inside of Dylan, and prompted him to continue his OBC adventures by taking part in our Toronto Urban Discovery course soon after. It was this experience that taught Dylan a great deal about where his passions and ambitions lie, helping to reveal a path that made sense for him and his interests in nature and outdoor education. Currently working with OBC as part of his school’s Co-op program, Dylan is continuing to learn more about his own abilities as a leader, a teacher and an individual. We can’t wait to see what he’ll do next!

Read what Dylan has to say about his OBC adventure below:

“My names Dylan Ramkay I started attending Outward Bound Canada (OBC) urban programming when I was 14 starting fresh in a new high school knowing nobody at all in my school. My first experience was having our grade 9 students come down to the Evergreen Brick Works where me and my fellow classmates participated in climbing the MacDougall Outward Bound Challenge Tower. At the starting of the day I knew and trusted no one in my grade but by the end of the day I felt as if I’ve known them for years. Having a complete stranger belay me while I climbing the 60-foot tower was a big trust exercise for a lot of us, I myself was really nervous to climb, but by doing some trust and teamwork initiatives before climbing really opened and took down those walls that me and my classmates had put up. 

I had the amazing opportunity to participate in the Urban Discovery course during the summer of my grade 10 year. This experience really opened my eyes to the world of outdoor educational learning. During that summer we spent our days learning about the nature within our city. Our main topic was lost rivers. I asked the same question you’re probably thinking about right now: what is a lost river? Well they are rivers that have been covered over not allowing for the river to flow in its natural path. We in Toronto have daylighted some of our lost rivers because mother nature worked its magic and starting to take back the route of the rivers even if there was a building in its place. With the group I learned a lot about leadership skills. Throughout the summer our group planned various different hikes and paddles within the city of Toronto.

Something I will always remember from that first course with OBC was the emphasis on teamwork and trusting your peers, which really got me and my fellow classmates out of our bubble and interacting with people who we may have not known at the beginning of the day. I wasn't an open person when I got into high school; I was a very quiet laid back person who did not interact with people a lot, but from that first day of OBC I have come out of my shell and excelled in participating and voicing my opinion inside and outside of school. 

I am now a grade 12 Co-op student working with Outward Bound Canada in the Toronto Urban Programs, teaching students of all different ages about the things OBC has taught me. 

I realized I was not the type to be stuck inside all day working in an office. I wanted to be active and I wanted to teach people about the outdoors, leadership, self-reliance, compassion, craftsmanship, physical fitness, and teamwork – all things I had learned about and from OBC programing throughout my school years. I never thought I'd be in the same position as my instructors were at the beginning of grade 9. I wouldn't think to get up in front of groups some bigger that 40 students and instruct and teach students the wonders of Outward Bound Canada programming, but with the help of the programs and opportunities my school and OBC have given me, I am now hoping for a potential job in the outdoor education world.”

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Donor Profile: Bart MacDougall

Bart MacDougall began his OBC journey in 1993 when he joined the board to help with fundraising. A true believer in the power of the outdoors with a passion for the development and education of our youth, Bart soon became “hooked” on our own brand of adventure, taking part in seven OBC experiences that he says helped take him out of his comfort zone and allowed him to discover more about himself. Bart was honoured as the recipient of our 2014 Kurt Hahn Award, in recognition of exceptional leadership and service. Bart will be stepping down from the board this year and we would like to take this opportunity to thank him for his years of dedication, guidance and friendship. Our endless thanks Bart!

Here's what Bart has to say about why he continues to give back to OBC:

“Have you heard that Outward Bound ‘changes lives’?  That is what drives me to support them.  

While there is a focus on lives that are in a difficult transition, Outward Bound benefits many lives, and it only starts with teenagers.

In the early 1990s I was looking earnestly for a community project to become involved with.  To that point I had been busy on the boards of Bishop’s College School, where I attended, and then Upper Canada College where my two sons attended.  This was followed by a stint at the Art Gallery of Ontario where I was a Trustee and involved in fundraising; however, my thoughts had always been on the development and education of our youth.  Simply put, if a young person develops in an appropriate manner, they are likely to become better citizens in a better world.  

I soon discovered Outward Bound Canada.  My only regret is that I didn't discover it sooner.  It originated during WW2 and started as Outward Bound in the UK in 1941, inspired by Kurt Hahn.  It came to Canada in 1969, but it wasn't until 1993 that I was lured onto the board - by then Chairman, Bob Couchman – in a fundraising capacity to assist with a capital campaign.   

While my interest was primarily their focus on youth, I was to learn that Outward Bound Canada also serves many young adults who find their lives in difficult transition.  Also appealing to me was the use of the wilderness as the classroom, where most people are outside their comfort zone. For me, it was where I wanted to be! But I was to learn that it was NOT these new and different skills such as canoeing, camping, climbing, skiing, and dog sledding that were important.  It was the soft, personal skills that are developed, such as the building of self-esteem, a genuine respect for others, the value of community service, and a serious concern for the environment.  All this wrapped together and you have a variety of programs that are critical to our individual and collective well-being.  

I was to find that it is not until one has the actual experience with Outward Bound that there is a true appreciation for what they do.  In spite of a couple of attempts to have me go on an OBC program, it was not until several years later that I went on my first wilderness trip, and I was hooked.  

On that first program I was with a ‘brigade’ of likeminded adults, taking an interest in what Outward Bound Canada does.  It was a combination of canoeing and climbing and all of us were outside our comfort zones part, or all, of our time in the wilderness.  New hard skills were learned, but it wasn't until we returned to base at the end of five days and "circled up" did we really understand the true benefits of the experience.  Before we were awarded our Outward Bound pins, we were all asked to summarize what we had learned about ourselves and about the others.  To bare our minds and souls to a group of peers who were strangers when we arrived is daunting to be sure.  But now you have had five days together, and silence was not an option! It was truly amazing to hear the variety of benefits and challenges that each participant outlined.  Many displayed extraordinary emotion, and it became very clear that Outward Bound Canada can bring worthwhile change into lives that are already well established and successful.  We were all left to consider what a similar experience could do for a life that is troubled, or in a difficult transition.  

 One program was only a start to my full appreciation of Outward Bound.  I have had six more since the mid-1990s and each one has been a different challenge and a new learning experience.  They have included everything from canoeing, dog sledding, cross country skiing, climbing, sailing, rowing, hiking, and of course camping.  But the real benefit comes in the development of inter-personal skills associated with being with peers outside of ones comfort zone.  The learning curve about yourself can be really steep!

Now to the challenge facing Outward Bound Canada that has been my focus.  There is a never-ending need for funds to support programs for those unable to afford them.  These are our Community Programs that we offer to urban youth; women who have been subjected to violence; Aboriginal youth, and veterans of our country's armed services.  Many in these segments of our society face serious challenges and need our support if they are to have the life-altering experience that Outward Bound Canada can give them.  I intend to continue my support, and I will always encourage others to do the same.  My thanks to all my Outward Bound Canada peers who have been with me during my 22-year journey.  I hope it will continue for many more years."