YPAAG Youth Retreat

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From June 5-7, 2015, members of the Youth Policy Advisory and Advocacy Group (YPAAG) attended a weekend retreat at the Bark Lake Leadership Centre to take part in activities that included canoeing, archery, hikes, low ropes and high ropes. Each activity challenged people to step out of their comfort zones and overcome their fears.

The weekend opened up with each participant sharing their hopes for what the weekend would do for them and for the group. Following this, icebreakers began and the fun started with games. After dinner, everyone headed to the water to traverse the lake in voyageur canoes.

Participants worked as a team to get to a destination where a campfire was waiting for them along with ingredients for a type of Scottish bread called bannock. Once the dough was ready, everyone cooked their own bannock over the fire.

Next was a game called bat and moth where one person, the bat, was blindfolded while trying to track down another, the moth. Everyone else surrounded the two, acting as trees to make sure that they didn’t go out of the circle. This challenged the blindfolded bat to hear exactly where the moth was.

Then came a short night hike which allowed everyone to reflect on why they were there, what they wanted from this experience and what they hoped to accomplish.

Saturday morning began bright and early with an activity where everyone made a big circle with one person in the middle who was not allowed to see. Holding an arm out to the side, the person in the middle walked towards the people that were there to bring them back into the circle. This challenged the person in the middle to trust the others and everyone who formed the circle to be that support that the person in the middle needed.

The next activity was the low ropes and a friendly, yet competitive game of space baseball. Teams had to work together to spot the two who were on the ropes, pass the balls, and score points. Each team was challenged to strategize and work together to win the game.

Before lunch, the YPAAGers met in their common room for a group discussion. Ontario YouthCAN program coordinators gave a short presentation on the role of the Youth Communications Advocacy Networking group, and an OACAS employee, along with some of the YPAAGers, opened a discussion about concerns that had been raised at a recent consultation event. Everyone had a chance to express what they wanted for the group moving forward, and to voice out some of the things that they want to see happen with YPAAG.

After a nice lunch served by the cooks at the Bark Lake Leadership Centre, everyone met up at the lake to get ready for either canoeing or archery! For many, this was the first time in a canoe or shooting a bow. This provided for a fun time for all as the archers tried to hit their targets and the canoers splashed each other while playing canoe basketball.

Then the Amazing race began. Four teams were assembled and each was sent to a different location within the campground to look for a sign to then return to the starting point to complete a task. This was repeated several times until all of the steps were completed. The winners were announced and dinner followed.

The evening continued with a campfire and s’mores, as well as campfire songs that brought back childhood memories for many of the YPAAGers there. A few short skits were performed. Smiles and laughter surrounded the campfire as everyone truly enjoyed themselves. After the fire went out, everyone returned to the common area where more of YPAAG was discussed and Netflix followed. Warm Fuzzies were introduced, which gave everyone an opportunity to write something nice about all those who had attended the weekend and place it in an envelope that they could later read. The response was very good, and everyone was writing warm fuzzies during Netflix and the morning after.

On the final day, the high ropes was the highlight. This was an activity the challenged everyone to believe that they could overcome their fears. Three different courses were available to choose from and everyone who felt comfortable went up to at least one of these tough courses. If people were struggling, everyone on the ground was yelling to support those climbing. It was a sense of community, one where you could listen to and trust the people who were trying to help you.

The weekend ended with pictures, just like the first day, except that everyone was asked to share what they had learned from the experience as well as their hopes for YPAAG and everyone in the group. A video was made of all the pictures taken over the weekend and it provided for many laughs and smiles. The weekend was truly an amazing one and one that YPAAG will not forget. A special thanks to the staff at the Bark Lake Leadership Centre who took care of the group for the weekend.

Until next year!