Today's Outward Bound Association, by Bill Sutton

28803835552For over 60 years, the Outward Bound Associations (OBAs) have provided invaluable support in helping deserving individuals experience a life-changing Outward Bound course.  They're run by local volunteers and formed from local community groups, such as schools, youth services, police and other interested organisations - many of whom have had their lives shaped by their experiences with The Outward Bound Trust.

Guest blogger Bill Sutton and member of Wakefield District OBA explains how their Association has needed to adapt over the years to continue supporting today's local teenagers.

The Wakefield District OBA has been running for 30 years and still has one of its founding members, Keith Lister, now in the role of Treasurer! I am told that over those years there have been many changes in the way we fund courses for students. One of the mainstays, through local authority money, has been severely restricted in more recent times, which has meant we now rely on tapping into other charitable funds in the shape of local Rotary Clubs, who've been very generous in supporting young people from our communities, and also some township or Parish specific charitable trusts.

Our most recent fund raising innovation has been through employing young people who are completing their DofE awards and are in need of community volunteering opportunities, to bag pack at our local supermarkets. This can be seen as a virtuous circle because the students get their community time and the OBA gets some money in with which we can then help some of the DofE students attend Outward Bound courses.

It has also meant that young people not involved in DofE, who would otherwise not be able to afford attendance on an Outward Bound course, can be funded directly through us. As a result members of the OBA now turn out 4 or 5 Saturdays a year with the DofE students to supervise their bag packing activities - this has the added advantage of giving us direct contact with young people in the right age group for Outward Bound and has led to us recruiting 3 new members to the OBA, one of whom Aaron Musgreave attended Outward Bound in 2014 (the virtuous circle continues!).

Prior to my involvement with the OBA (I started in 2008) the then Wakefield OBA Chairman, Colin Moran, was involved in discussions with the Chairman of Wakefield District Housing (WDH) which manages the former 'Council Housing' estate for the Wakefield District Council. Those discussions led to further work between WDH and The Outward Bound Trust which resulted in WDH working with schools serving the major housing estates and students being sponsored to attend Outward Bound courses every year.

This year, which is typical of what has happened for the past 10 years, over 200 students participated in Outward Bound assessment days leading to 60 students from 3 different schools attending a 5 day course at Aberdovey and 3 of them will go on to complete the Skills for Life Award course this summer. A representative of WDH is a member of the OBA and his contribution and that of his Association continues to be very helpful.

Over the past 3 years we have developed relationships with 4 local schools and in particular sought to involve schools in sending groups of students on the 3 day and 5 day experiences during the winter and spring months. The results for the schools have been excellent in that they have noted in many cases improvements in the behaviour and attitudes after attendance, and the fact that each school has rebooked for the following year is a clear indication of real benefits to student and school alike. We've been very well supported in our work with the schools by the whole Outward Bound Trust Team but I must particularly mention Bex Randles, who has built a great relationship with the OBA and partnering schools. This is an area for further development and we hope to involve at least one other school over the winter/spring of 2015/16.

As a blog, the style of this narrative may seem more like an end of year report, which is perhaps more reflection of my professional life rather than the enthusiasm which I and fellow members of the Wakefield OBA feel for our job of identifying the right youngsters to benefit from Outward Bound and facilitating their attendance on course. The reward - students and their Mums and Dads saying it has made a difference - in a good way!