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HOW WE DO IT.....The Wilderness Youth Challenge - WYC

 

Ten days in a wilderness environment is used to impart basic life skills supported by positive environmental education and experience. This is accomplished through a series of workshops directed towards the group as a whole as each participant is trained and outfitted to spend four days and nights alone in a solo camp. During this solo time the youth are required to complete a set curriculum with predetermined outcomes in order to graduate fully, any measure of accomplishment is recognized regardless of the outcome.
Youth referred by professional support persons are accepted into WYCP with the Intake process focused on our ability to provide risk management for their personal issues. An example would be a youth referred by the Alberta Hospital and identified as a suicide risk would still be accepted however we would implement risk management procedures to mitigate the risk as much as possible. There is a real and present danger associated to this initiative that needs to be recognized and professional referrals are able to provide the proper information to allow us to keep the youth as safe as possible.
Small groups of four to six youth with six to twelve volunteers and staff use public access areas in various locations around the province of Alberta. We hike six to ten kilometers from the staging area to establish a ten day base camp. Immediately the youth are assigned designated tent sites within the camp perimeter, a canvas cabin tent with four to six two room tents for staff and volunteers, shower tent, dry goods tent and outhouse tents are erected with designated walkways flagged. The first meal is a communal supper and breakfast the second day becomes their first cooking lesson, outfitted with stoves and mess kits the youth will prepare their own meals from that point onward. Individual fires are not allowed at this time however a group pit is prepared and used as a comfort fire only in the evenings. Leave no trace rules are discussed the first night and procedures are established to support them.
Day one is spent entirely on LNT principles and Wilderness First Aid workshops. These learning sessions will focus on proper use of the injured person’s surroundings and in particular how pro active actions defined by LNT principles can actually help to avoid personal injuries in the wilderness. Day two combines LNT with Predator Awareness by Habitat for a daylong workshop. The youth are trained to use common predator deterrents but with a strong focus on using habitat awareness coupled with the knowledge of leave no trace practices to avoid a predator rather than confront one. An example is the mention of a shower tent in base camp, we provide a hot water on demand shower and each person in camp is required to shower every evening, laundry is a daily affair as personal cleanliness goes a long way towards presenting as a human when encountering a predator. Day three again combines our LNT practices with a Fire/Water/Shelter Site workshop where the youth learn site selection and maintenance while adhering to the same LNT principals we use in base camp. Day four is used to reinforce previous workshops and learn how each critical area is connected to responsible use of the environment, in particular the practices they will need to perform while alone in their solo camps. An example of this is our routine of using ‘before & after’ pictures when the youth initiate their solo experience. A series of still pictures record the site before and after the youth have used it for their four day solo camp and every site requires a 100% reclamation effort before the youth is allowed to return to base camp.
Day five the youth repack their kits and we assist them to their solo areas. Each youth is allowed approximately one square kilometer and given instruction to not go beyond sight of their tent while on their solo. The each place a ‘fail-safe’ flag at the entry to their area to indicate when help needed with a downed flag. The day is spent assisting the youth into their solo areas and with a final visit from us just before nightfall they prepare for their first night out.
Day’s six to nine the youth are solo unless we observe a downed flag which incurs our breaking their solo to assist as needed. During this time we maintain a strong presence in and around the area our youth are using while being ready to respond to a distress call 24/7. While on their solo they have certain ‘curriculum’ items to complete each day, sometimes to reinforce a personal needs routine. An example would be the making of hydro mil water collection sites to augment their water needs despite being equipped with a water filtration system. Each day they are presented with an additional challenge to complete while managing their personal and LNT requirements. For 2021we will be offering a five day version we title Tomorrows Youth Today - TYT    to support safety against Covid.