A week of outdoor adventure experience gave our group of young people new exciting activities on land and water. They had plenty of opportunities to try something new. We planned the trip to increase confidence, build teamwork, improve and challenge the Cadets to support each other as a team.
From the river to climbing new heights, each activity was different and helped our group get the most from this adventure; they created memories of successes that will stay with them forever.
The Cadet leaders took an active part in the activities and watched as the young people in their charge developed key skills like communication, decision-making, confidence and determination. Bonds grew stronger as they made new friendships and strengthened existing relationships.
We started the week with an activity called Survivor. The Cadets found out what it takes to keep warm and dry in the wild with whatever they could find. They built different types of shelters for different environments and learnt how to start simple fires for cooking and heating.
Then it was on to the Giant Swing which can be summed up in one word: terrifying! For this the Cadets were harnessed into a two-seater swing before the rest of the group worked together, using a pulley system, to haul the swing up to 10m into the air. The Cadets in the harness then had to pluck up the courage to pull a release cord which sent them hurtling downwards before swinging back up into the sky. This was one of the most popular activities the Cadets undertook and caused lots of chat and laughter afterwards.
‘Matrix’ was after lunch. It involved stepping through secret gateways to solve puzzles, do tasks, and take part in other activities. It was a great test of physical and mental agility. The multiple puzzles were great for improving the young people’s communication skills, their ability to cooperate with each other and teamwork.
We finished the day’s activities with Archery. The Cadets were instructed in the techniques and helped to ensure they were on target. Lots of the Cadets were bragging about how they had done this before and were real life Robin Hoods or Maid Marions, so when the Cadet staff beat them it started a lot of good natured banter which helped in relationship building and rapport.
The second morning we went out quad biking. We were given the chance to race round a purpose built track and develop our skills safely! The Cadets learnt how to operate the quad bikes correctly, and we saw a lot of challenge and teamwork as they pushed themselves and encouraged each other to go faster and be braver.
Then it was up a tower to try the zip wire. The Cadets were suspended and harnessed from an overhead cable then they travelled at high speed to another tower. Because of the teamwork and efficiency of the youth in getting themselves strapped on and off they had lots of chances to have a go at this exhilarating activity.
The Cadets then went through a mind boggling range of obstacles climbing over, crawling under and balancing on the challenge course. It was muddy, wet, and always challenging. They competed in teams against each other to transport water from one end to the other, most of it went on each other!
Following this and whilst they were already wet and muddy the Cadets did the sensory trail. This involved them being blindfolded and following a rope with only their other senses to guide them. They ended up getting even muddier and wetter from the sensory trail as they crawled through puddles and under low hanging trees to find their way to the end. It was funny to watch them inventing obstacles that didn’t even exist as they stepped over imaginary rocks or crouched under non-existent fencing.
The next day started with a range of problem solving tests. The Cadets tested their brain power and outwitted their team mates solving complex puzzles and tasks and racing against the clock. A good, challenging activity, where we got to see potential leadership skills being used.
It was then onto wall climbing using the massive outdoor towers. Although it looks easy you’ll find it needs a surprising amount of strength and agility. The Cadets had full instruction even before they left the ground; they were tested on how to identify and control risk, how to belay a climber safely and had an introduction to the basic skills and techniques of climbing. Once they were on the wall it was their own determination, clear thinking and adrenaline that got them to the top! All the party showed great resilience in this challenge.
Team games came next. This was a terrific bonding activity. We played a range of traditional games which enabled us to build a team and work together to develop winning tactics as well as having fun!
Into safety gear next as we did the tunnel trail. We were tasked with navigating and exploring a series of underground tunnels of different shapes and sizes whilst solving problems and carrying out tasks. The underground games of hide and seek were lots of fun as we squeezed into small gaps to ensure no one found us.
The last morning became a dragon boat regatta as all the groups on the centre competed against each other. Dragon Boating requires strength and determination but most importantly team work. Our instructor steered the boat as we worked together to paddle rhythmically and effectively throughout. Without any doubt, the teams in the other boats were equally determined to win, but our squadron team won every single race even though one of the other boats was crewed by the local sea Cadet group. There was lots of fun, laughter, splashing and shouts of encouragement throughout.
Throughout the week we also had a range of evening activities which helped the Cadets to wind down after their busy days and included a camp fire, a quiz and our own awards ceremony. Russell, our group leader from the centre, was on hand at all times to ensure our needs were met and changes could be implemented to tailor the programme to our group.
The week at the residential centre is one that will live long in the Cadets’ memories. They made the most of the opportunity to be outdoors and to try new things, to challenge themselves and to commend themselves on both their personal and team achievements.
The staff and Cadets would like to thank both the RAF Charitable Trust and the Ulysses Trust for their support in this venture. Without their backing many young people from difficult and deprived backgrounds would not have been able to access this adventure.
These are some quotes from the families of the cadets …
“…sending a big thank you to everyone – Jake has had an amazing time”
“I thought I’d gone deaf and we have food left in the fridge.”
“She’s had a great time, I’m glad she had the chance to join your trip, she’s really challenged herself.”
“It’s very much appreciated how you take our stroppy teenagers away in the summer hols.”
Our thanks go to the generosity of the Royal Air Force Charitable Trust for supporting this expedition. www.rafct.com
Note: These Cadets live in one of highest areas on the governments social deprivation index. Some of the cadets are second/third generation unemployed. Over half the Cadets who took part in this expedition are eligible for Free School Meals.