Outward and upward
For almost half a century, Outward Bound has been putting New Zealanders through their paces amongst the native bush, mountains and rivers.
It's a simple idea really - the invigoration of a new adventure, the challenge of the unknown, the benefits of being exposed to good people, good times and good old-fashioned hard yakka.
Within this simple approach lies the brilliance of an organisation which has been helping Kiwis find the energy to rise to life's challenges since 1962.
Outward Bound has a long-standing relationship with corporate New Zealand, challenging, motivating and reinvigoration business groups and management teams since its inception. However, something that is not so well known is the Trust's tradition of working with New Zealand's welfare groups, including Work and Income.
The relationship with welfare groups began with the New Zealand Employment Service in 1997, when the Government of the day contracted Outward Bound to deliver motivational courses to the unemployed.
Work and Income has continued this relationship, and today Outward Bound Catalyst programmes help motivate, challenge and re-energise Work and Income clients like Jo Holley and Carol McLeish-Griffin.
The Outward Bound experience
Carol, a 49-year-old self-confessed couch potato, and Jo, a 27-year-old personal trainer and television personality, could not be more different. Yet both found the same benefits from their Outward Bound experience.
"Every day produced a new challenge," says Jo. "There were so many wonderful experiences."
For almost half a century, Outward Bound has been putting New Zealanders like Carol and Jo through their paces amongst the native bush, mountains, rivers and seaways of the Marlborough Sounds.
"I couldn't believe it when we got there," says Carol. "It was just so beautiful. The whole area is amazing."
Outward Bound's home camp, Anakiwa, is a natural compound where timber buildings merge seamlessly into the native bush which frames the natural curves of the Queen Charlotte Sound. Since its humble beginnings in a run-down guest house, the Trust has worked hard to give New Zealanders from all walks of life the experience of an Outward Bound challenge. In fact, the Trust's goal is to make sure that Outward Bound is accessible to all New Zealanders.
To this end, the Trust has developed a variety of courses ranging from eight to 21 days. Each course caters for differing levels of fitness and stamina, meaning they can accommodate anyone - from 18 to 80.
Outward Bound – That’s me
Carol, a solo mum, admits she had been quite slack and was looking for something to give her a kick-start, when she read about Work and Income's relationship with Outward Bound.
"I had read in one of the Work and Income pamphlets that I could do an Outward Bound course and thought, That's great, that's me," says Carol.
When she discussed the entry criteria with her case manager, she learned that the next Catalyst course would begin in six weeks. She quickly realised that she had some serious work to do if she was going to make the course.
"You have got to be able to run 3.5km in under 30 minutes, and at the time I was a smoker and a bit of a couch potato," says Carol.
"But I thought; I have got to do this. I have got to have a goal in my life."
Carol attacked her goal head-on, making a resolution that day to quit smoking and start running. "After I had seen my case manager I went straight to the doctor and got a prescription for the [nicotine] patches, and then I got a membership at the gym," says Carol.
"It was hard yakka for those five weeks, but I knew it was going to be even harder when I got to Outward Bound."
All the hard work paid off. To say that Carol was simply happy when she was accepted into the Catalyst course would be an understatement.
"When I got accepted, I felt like I had won the Lotto," she says. "I just felt euphoria."
Over the next 10 weeks, Carol and 11 other Work and Income clients completed a range of survival and adventure activities including tramping, kayaking and climbing. They were taken to the edge of their capabilities by the Outward Bound team and then shown that, with confidence and hard work, they could go further.
"The scariest thing for me was the rock climbing up a sheer cliff," says Carol. "You have the safety harness but it is still bloody high.
"I really didn't think I'd be able to [do it], but through the encouragement of others in the group I did.
"I found that really scary, but ultimately I loved it as well because I made it to the top. It was awesome."
Overcoming fear through challenge
Television personality Jo Holley shares Carol's enthusiasm for Outward Bound, though her experience was somewhat different.
Jo, who had appeared on children's television show Squirt; The Crowd Goes Wild; and Meke My Waka - Māori Television's answer to American show Pimp My Ride, was between acting jobs when she was captivated by an Outward Bound promotional DVD during a visit to Work and Income. She decided on the spot that it was for her.
"I approached my case manager straight after seeing the DVD and talked about it. We decided it would be an awesome opportunity," says Jo.
On arriving at the Anakiwa home base, Jo was first struck by the isolation, and admits to being a bit apprehensive.
"It felt like a secluded place in the middle of nowhere," says Jo.
"On one hand, I was super keen thinking, Awesome. Here we go. On the other hand, I was thinking, Where are we and what are we in for?"
What Jo was in for was an action-packed 21 days of blindfolded rock climbing, running through the pristine tracks of Queen Charlotte Sound and then plunging into freezing cold rivers.
Not to mention kayaking, tramping, sailing and rubber-necking at dolphins.
"I remember one funny experience when I was the skipper," says Jo, who has Outward Bound to thank for her first experience commanding a ship. "Our team was watching the dolphins swim beside us and I made the boat 'freak tack'. The look on everyone's faces was priceless."
Every day produced a new test for Jo. One of her biggest challenges was learning to take a backseat during the action.
"I was very confident before attending Outward Bound, so the main challenge for me was learning to take a step back, observe others and not rush in to help all the time," she says.
However, Jo was really stretched during Solo - an unaccompanied overnight stay in the bush.
"The initial feeling of being out in the forest alone at night was a challenge. We had all worked each other up on the way out telling scary stories which didn't help," says Jo.
"I remember being dropped off at night near a cave, and all I could think was, There is someone in the cave.
"I made myself an enclosed tent out of my fly, with twigs as a barrier at the ends. Weka and possums kept coming over to inspect my tent and my torch went flat, so I had no light and just lay in my ‘hut', freaking myself out at the sounds of possums, until the instructor came and did the final check."
Despite weka, possums and scary stories, Jo overcame her initial fear and even managed a bit of shuteye amongst the flora and fauna.
"[Initially] I thought I wasn't going to be able to sleep," says Jo, "but after the check I went straight to sleep."
Re-energised and ready to tackle the workforce
Both Jo and Carol came away from their Outward Bound experience re-energised and ready to tackle new challenges.
Carol is now actively seeking work and has applied to join the Navy.
"I have always wanted to join the Police or the Navy, and because of the Outward Bound course I realised I could do these things," she says.
"I'm just so happy with life, whereas before it was all pretty dull."
Jo left Outward Bound inspired to be more adventurous and try new things, which she says she is now doing with increased confidence.
Since her Outward Bound experience, Jo has continued to secure roles in a range of promotional and presenting work. These roles have included the NZI Wellington Sevens, Homegrown, and the All Blacks Road Show.
Jo and Carol recommend the Outward Bound experience to anyone looking to get some energy back into their life.
"If you want an adventure of a lifetime that you will never forget," says Jo. "One that is thrilling, challenging, refreshing, inspiring and will instil positive life skills, Outward Bound is for you. Do it."