Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Bounders' Log: Kerisma

Being able to offer life-transforming experiences to those individuals who need them most is something that we at Outward Bound Canada have prided ourselves on since day one in 1969, and with our impactful Women of Courage (WOC) Program we see this come to fruition perhaps more than anywhere else. For Kerisma – as with many participants – just exactly what she was getting herself into was a bit of a grey area. Our staff had worked closely with her to make her feel ready and prepared for the journey ahead, but Kerisma couldn’t help but be unsure of her own ability to complete the adventure that lay before her. Sure enough, as soon as she was in the company of the women who would be taking this journey with her, she found herself rapidly and wholly embracing all that was to come.


"In preparing for, applying for and considering the Outward Bound Canada journey ahead of me, all of my concerns, doubts and fears revolved around my physical ability to complete the trip. 

Within minutes of getting to the base camp I realized that the physical challenge was just one small part of the journey I was embarking on, and I needed to take a few moments to acknowledge that I was putting my trust for my safety and my basic needs such as food, water, and shelter in the hands of people I had just met. I realized that this was going to be a challenge on so many more levels than just the physical. I was ready. 

The coordinator had done a wonderful job of selecting participants who were up for all aspects of the journey and I think we were all pleasantly surprised to discover she was coming with us. We spent the first night at the camp and it gave us all a chance to adjust to our new gear, sleeping outside, and each other. It was nice easing in to the journey we would embark on the following morning.   

It was that first morning together riding in the van to the trail head that I came to understand the true gift of being selected for this particular course. This was the Women of Courage course, and as I listened to the women speak to each other and begin sharing parts of their unique stories with one another, I was deeply moved by an overwhelming feeling of being amongst kindred souls.  They were speaking my language, and their compassion and wisdom filled the van with such depth of being that I found my heart bursting. I don’t know if anyone knew how special that ride was for me. The other women all seemed to have had other experiences of sharing stories of courage and survival with other women but for me it was unexpected and a first and it had a deep and profound impact on me. I came to understand that this was to be an entirely different kind of journey than I had anticipated… and it was. 

Two weeks prior to the trip my marriage had come to an abrupt and surprising end. I had considered cancelling the trip because I was in pretty rough shape emotionally.  I am grateful I did not. For on the trail, on the beaches, amongst the women, and under the stars I found peace and authenticity of self. I spent time each day inwardly reflecting on my feelings and I was graced with serenity that I think came from being out away from everything.

As we walked through the forests I let my memories of the past rise up, creating new memories and reclaiming my ability to laugh and enjoy being in the outdoors.  As we walked along the beaches I discovered strength in my body. As we walked along the muddy and rugged trails I discovered how capable I truly was. As we broke down and set up camps every day I discovered I could navigate between taking time for myself and spending time with others authentically.  As I lay in my tent listening to the ocean I faced being alone and I discovered being connected to something so much bigger than myself.  It filled up my cup and gave me back a foundation with myself that carried me far when I returned home to clean up and move on from the wreckage I had left behind.  And now I carry it in my heart that when my soul needs some healing, or some rest, I can go out into the woods, or beaches or anywhere in nature and find that for myself. 



My course mates will tell you a story of me losing my only spoon, of how crushed I felt knowing it was only day two and I had nothing to eat with.  How I bounced back and found a shell at the first beach we came to and happily ate my dinner that evening with a smile on my face and gratitude in my heart just to be able to eat.  They would also tell you that after dinner when my shell did not come back from the ocean where the dishes were washed that my body tensed and tears welled up in my eyes as I again tried to find acceptance and trust in the situation.  I would tell you that over the following days all of my sisters brought to me shell after shell in acts of kindness and comradery.  I would tell you that inside I had to let go of attachment, anger, the need to control. That inside I came to understand that I would be fine without a spoon or my favourite shell that was inlaid with abalone and so clean it might have come from a shop.  We could all tell you of the morning where I turned my head to see an old encrusted fork lying beside me on the driftwood and how my face lit up.  How I cleaned and polished that fork till it shone. How I ate with it for the rest of the trip with absolute delight and pride.  Never in a million years would I have believed that I would joyfully eat from someone else’s fork that had been abandoned dirty on a beach, that just was not even to be imagined. But I grew on that trip. I learned to let go and let go and let go, and in the process, I found everything I needed including an old fork that I cherished.  When we arrived back at base camp and my original spoon fell out of the backpack of one of my mates, all heads turned to see what I would do.  I looked up smiled and laughed, for I would not have traded what I learned and what I gained for all the spoons in the world."

Monday, December 12, 2016

Why I Give to OBC: Nora Stevenson

Nora was looking for an organization in which she could get involved and know that her contribution would have a real impact on the people who benefited from it. When her neighbour introduced her to Outward Bound Canada and the Women of Courage Program, she knew almost immediately that this was the organization for her.


"In April 2014 my new next-door neighbour came over for a visit and talked about her involvement with Outward Bound Canada and the Women of Courage (WOC) Program.  I had been looking for a charity that provided programs for abused women and I instantly knew that Outward Bound Canada was a perfect fit.

I did some more research and decided I would donate to Outward Bound Canada and I would also participate in the WOC Program, canoeing for eight days in British Columbia’s Clayoquot Sound. I am not a camper, so a week canoeing in the wilderness was completely out of my comfort zone. In that week, with a group of amazing women, I learned that I could camp and be without the creature comforts that I was used to. I also learned to trust the strength of myself and that I can rely on others to help me out too. Probably most rewarding for me, was to see and be with the other participants that were experiencing the wilderness of B.C., away from the painful experiences in their lives in a safe and energizing environment as a result of my donation. It showed me that I had value both in being a part of the team that canoed for eight days and also that I had the resources to help others.

As a child of Holocaust survivors, who grew up in an abusive environment, my hope is that through providing funding for women to participate in the WOC Program, I can in a small way prevent the cycle of abuse from being passed on to these women’s children, and hope that in the future all children will grow up in a world where they are honoured and respected.  I am grateful that Outward Bound Canada provides these programs."