I recently tracked down 13 of the 20 prostitutes I had taken into the wilderness back in the ‘80s.
They were once part of a student-at-risk program I worked at. Years had past and I started wondering whatever happened to them. So I went searching.
Some I found in jail. Others had careers. One was a principal at a Toronto high school. Another was a pilot in the Canadian Air Force. All of them enjoyed my visit, especially reminiscing about our two-week canoe trip in the far north. What amazed me the most is that all 13 of them said that the time spent travelling the wilderness was the turning point of their lives for them. It was a time they could finally be themselves, away from the troubles back at home and the pure pressure on the streets. It didn’t happen automatically. The first few days they all tried to figure out ways to escape. But the further we went into the wilds the less they fought it, and the more they embraced their natural surroundings.
I’ve always been aware that time spent in the woods is a good thing. However, it’s nice to be reminded now and then how powerful those moments are. Visiting the past students was good medicine for me, and I think for them as well. I still work with students at risk and I needed a reminder of what good comes out of it all. So did they.
Adventure-based learning is a simplistic but effective tool. It’s the process of using physical activities to help troubled youth discover goals, trust, communication, teamwork and problem-solving skills. Doing all this while immersed in the wilds also brings about self-esteem and self-motivation. Add all that together, it can definitely change their lives.
On May 1, I will have the honour of being the keynote speaker for Project Canoe — an organization that uses the outdoors to foster future success of students at risk. (Here’s information on the event: http://www.canoe.org/2014/04/project-canoes-annual-pub-night/.)
It would be great if you can make it out to the event. I can guarantee time spent will be with a group of enthusiastic, like-minded people. You’ll also help change someone’s life forever.
Oh yeah — and a big thanks goes out to Explore Magazine for being one of the sponsors who’s helping me get there.