Adventure Leadership Trek Phase: “Coming on Raleigh is putting yourself up for the challenge.”

18th April 2018

The Adventure Leadership Trek phase often evokes a variety emotions from volunteers on allocation day. While some volunteers are excited for the challenge, some volunteers are apprehensive and are doubtful of their ability. The Adventure Leadership Trek phase can result in some of the biggest developments both personally and professionally.

The Adventure Leadership Trek phase is solely led by the volunteers. It aims to encourage volunteers to find and develop their own style of leadership. The volunteers are joined by experienced trek guides however the guides are there to share survival skills and carve out the trekking route. The Volunteer Managers with the group also take a step back and are only there to offer guidance when needed.

Before setting out, the volunteers participate in an Adventure Leadership workshop at basecamp. The workshop explores what leadership is and prompts the volunteers to consider the different qualities and styles they will need to employ when leading their team on trek. Afterwards, it is time for packing their bags and embarking on the 16 day adventure.

Each evening on trek the group decide upon a Day Leader for the following day. The Day Leader is responsible for managing all organisation and decisions. They will decide what time the group should wake up, eat breakfast, pack up camp, leave camp, speed of walking, the order in which people walk within the group and so on. They must be mindful of keeping the spirits in the team high and ensuring a fair splitting of tasks.

The thought of being a Day Leader to 10 or more of your peers in a remote and challenging environment with challenging conditions can be a daunting one. Some of the volunteers have never managed or led a group before. Host Country Volunteer, Zakirah explains, “I didn’t have confidence in myself back home. When I was day leader during my community phase I shared the role with another volunteer because I had no confidence.”

Zakirah continues, “On trek, I became Day Leader on day three. My Volunteer Manager, Henry, asked who wanted to be tomorrows Day Leader and I volunteered. I think I did a way better job. I was comfortable enough to delegate jobs. I couldn’t do that in community but now I could.”

Each evening on trek the Day Leader leads a debrief of the day including individual highs and lows, as well as nominating a Legend of the Day. It offers opportunity to reflect on the day in a safe space to discover what worked well and what could be improved upon. Volunteer Jason reflects, When you are Day Leader it is easy to give out commands and expect people to do stuff. From this experience, however, I’ve found you have to do tasks yourself in order for other people to want to do stuff.”

Volunteers are empowered by their Volunteer Managers to make their own decisions and, in turn, experience the consequences of their decisions. Volunteer Cyrus explains, “My Volunteer Manager Henry had a really good leadership style. He never told us what to do directly. He just sat back and let us figure everything out for ourselves. He would stop us if things were going to go badly wrong. I thought that was really good because normally you are told what you can and cannot do. This way we were in charge of the trek. We all felt so much more accomplished when we finished because it was all on us.”

Looking back on her experience, Host Country Volunteer, Shriya says, “I would fully recommend trek to anyone who wants to find themselves. It is challenging mentally and physically so your resilience just grows so much stronger. It really tests you and you find out what you are made of.”

The skills and lessons gained on the Adventure Leadership Trek phase are transferable and stay with volunteers for life. Shriya continues to explain, I have learnt so much from this phase; responsibility, leadership, teamwork. There are 11 of us in the group and there are a lot of jobs to do around camp. It is always about volunteering and being proactive which helps make the camp a better camp to be in. It is a communal space which everyone needs to share. It’s kind of like our planet if you think about it.”

The Adventure Leadership Trek phase, in its design, is challenging. Every element isolated can be a challenge. The remoteness. The lack of luxuries and amenities. The weight of your bag. The early wake ups. No contact with the outside world. Lots of free time to think and reflect. Long trekking days on different gradients and terrain. The heat. Rationed food. Although challenging, Shriya states, Coming on Raleigh is putting yourself up for the challenge. I have just three days left and I don’t want to leave.”

Zakirah agrees and explains, “Trek has been hard but it is ok. You can’t have everything easy every single day. You have to have things hard once in a while to learn. It has been hard and challenging, but fun and worth it.”

Words by Communications Officer Rebecca Raab.

Photographs by Photographer Daniel Buttifant.

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