Outward Bound programming at Portage Elora uses the metaphors that are found in nature to reinforce what the youth are learning throughout their drug rehabilitation therapy at Portage. From several-day dog-sledding trips in Algonquin Park to activities and challenges at the centre and in the surrounding areas, residents are putting into practice their leadership, communication, and teamwork abilities that they have been working on in therapy.
During the girls’ dog-sledding trip in February, residents showed incredible strength and determination after an unavoidable late start had them hiking in the dark for three hours. Most people would find this quite challenging, but the girls made it through by developing a system to make sure that everyone stayed together and safe. They encouraged each other and sang the whole way through, stopping only for a moment of silence in the middle of an ice-covered lake to take in a sky full of stars.
Other recent Outward Bound activities include drum walks at the centre, during which residents are blind-folded and must use their other senses to follow the sound of a drum through a forested area. The walk is meant to symbolise their journey of walking away from their addiction and overcoming the obstacles they meet on the path to sobriety. The ‘Blind Mountaineer’ exercise on the ropes course is another trust and awareness activity that looks at the residents’ ability to ask for help. During and after these activities, residents discuss their feelings and how the experiences tie into their rehabilitation therapy. Recent groups have focused on trust-building and social justice.