Camping during the winter months is not something that most people would consider, but every winter the youth in treatment at Portage Ontario’s drug addiction rehabilitation centre have the opportunity to spend five days on an Outward Bound wilderness excursion. Not only are these trips a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for many of the participants, they also reinforce the competencies learned in treatment.
Although it has been a mild winter in Ontario, a storm blanketed Algonquin Park with snow just in time for the boys’ trip in January. The seven participants learned how to snowshoe and dog-sled, build a shelter, and cook in the snow.
Using the challenges of being in the wilderness, Outward Bound instructors facilitated discussions with the participants about how to transfer the skills they learn on the expedition and in treatment to their lives at home. These important life skills include caring for yourself, taking responsibility for your choices, expressing your needs and opinions with confidence, and working collaboratively with others. Effective communication and teamwork are integral components of winter camping, especially when it comes to guiding a dog-sled team!
Each participant also went on a 24-hour solo experience where they had the chance to reflect on the expedition and their time in treatment, come to important realisations about themselves, and leave behind anything that will no longer serve them going forward.
The trip encouraged the youth to push their boundaries and helped them learn how to recognise when they need to take a moment for themselves, as well as when to ask for help and rely on others. The boys returned to Portage from their trip truly transformed, and equipped with a new set of skills that will help them in their recovery.
“The hardest part of trip was pushing past mental barriers like the cold. The best part of the Outward Bound trip was the dog sledding and the steak! It was awesome. I always talk about how much Portage has to offer. I would have never had experiences such as dogsledding or snowshoeing in Algonquin if I hadn’t come to Portage.” - Vince F.
“The best part of Outward Bound is the togetherness of the participants. The hardest part of my experience was the work. One thing I learned on my Outward Bound trip was perseverance. Outward Bound was a very rewarding experience to say the least. Whether tending to another living thing or bonding with fellow residents, Outward Bound gave me the opportunity to learn skills that since the trip have proved quite valuable.” - Jacob S.