ISSUE 7 AUGUST 1999 BACK

PRACTICE

Hope on a rope

Mark Gamble

Mark Gamble runs an outdoor wilderness training organisation which focuses especially on young people in care. He is a registered child and youth care worker

Sunday afternoon, my vision filled with lounging youths. Too many kids in for the weekend to take to them for a walk in the mountains. My mind searching for a suitable activity that would keep boredom at bay, I head towards the pool area.

There I find Matthew and Mark busy with the task of tensioning a piece of rope from one end of the pool to the other, at a height of about half a metre above the water.
"What's up guys?" I ask indicating the rope.
"We just thought we would tie the rope across here," answered Matthew. "Maybe we will try to cross the pool without getting wet." Mark feels the tension in the rope with his hand, but it's so slack that he almost loses his balance and falls into the pool.
"So much for that idea, Matthew, " he says with a wry smile. "I wouldn't like to cross over on that!"
"This has got a kind of obstacle course feel to it." I comment.

Pow!!

An explosion of creative activity follows as an obstacle course is built in the backyard of our centre. A plank is nailed to a dead tree trunk, a swing is transformed into a climbing rope, an old door is placed on some blocks. This to be crept under, that to be balanced on; this you have to climb up and touch with both hands, that to be jumped over - "and over there by the pool ... well that you have to cross over and under the rope or you will fall in the water."

In my mind I see the fearsome sharks swimming in our very normal suburban swimming pool, so descriptive are the dramatised suggestions given by Matthew and Mark to the larger group of boys who have gathered and are now waiting in anticipation for their turn to complete the course.

"I'm going first" says Hilton. Sammy grabs the whistle. I'm given the role of time-keeper, but Sammy, he is to be the judge. The whistle blows. Up, down, around, run, balance, jump, under and over. Hilton collapses. "What was my time?" he asks.
"One minute, 36 seconds" I reply.
Thus it went, the boys competing against each other and improving on their own times. I think we all felt as tense as any of the Olympic competitors when Kenneth finally got the time for the course down to under a minute.

*     *     *

Only when the call for supper was heard did the enthusiasm over our do-it-yourself obstacle course subside. The boys moved towards the dining room. Sure they were nursing blisters and a few cuts and grazes, but they were also savouring the experience of the last few hours the experience of creating and owning their own good time, of challenge, mastery and encouragement of one another.  

THE INTERNATIONAL CHILD AND YOUTH CARE NETWORK (CYC-Net)
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