Follow the footstep of the wild and beautiful (The Economic Times Sunday 22 August 1999)
The right dose of nature helps you upgrade your performance and makes a better person out of you, writes D Govardan.
It was Dr. Kurt Hahn, a German, who advocated in the post World War II scenario, the benefits of Out Bound Training (OBT) for human beings. Even though it has been there for quite some time in India, the concept is picking up only recently. The city-based Wildertrails Adventure Club has now taken upon itself the task of drawing the attention of the Indian corporate houses to the benefits of OBT. Major Ashok Candade (retd), who is the promoter of the club says, "There is a growing awareness and appreciation of the role of the outdoors in key areas like leadership development, team building, motivation etc, and Wildertrails is ideally placed to use its expertise in the outdoors for corporate training." The Club, a division of Wildertrails Pvt. Ltd. brought to Chennai for the first time a novel concept of round-the-year adventure for its members, offering day trips and overnight camps on two weekends every month, as well as long camps during vacations. With a member strength of over 125 individuals, it offers getaway possibilities for individuals and families, with activities like camping, trekking, jungle walks, cycling treks etc. Wildertrails was started basically to get people to enjoy the outdoors and overcome the fear of outdoors. "Apart from this, adventures lead to personality development and physical fitness of people, besides creating an awareness on the conservation of the environment," he says. In fact, for the first outing organised by Wildertrails, there were hardly ten people who were willing to walk five km. In two years, Ashok Candade says, they were not only willing to walk 18 km but were also ready for white water rafting. Wildertrails believes that facing the challenges of survival in the outdoors fosters self-reliance and bonding within the group. Moreover, the sheer beauty of camp locations ensures that even though activities are physically tiring, the isolation from civilisation brings peace, relaxation and rejuvenation. Thus benefits are two-fold - fitness through exercise and an unwinding from routine tensions. Exposure to the outdoors also automatically nurtures a respect, even awe, for nature, and opens up minds to the need for conservation. Constant and repeat exposure brings members face-to-face with pressing issues of conservation, creating a growing body of aware and conservation-minded people. Wildertrails has identified OBT and OBL (Out Bound Learning) as a major thrust area for corporate houses and is planning to tie-up with them to offer its services. "We tailor a programme to the company's requirement and match the tasks of the people who participate in the programme with that of the company's needs," says Candade. With the whole world turning out increasingly to be a global village, there is an increasing pressure on the corporates to improve the quality of what they deliver. This brings in the need for the corporate houses, whether involved in manufacturing activities or in the service sector, to go in for ISO standards. The implementation of this calls for quality circles, where everyone has to work together to make it a success. This is where OBT plays its role, since it inculcates trust, bonding and creates an awareness of always being part of a team. An OBT programme is normally conducted under the watchful eyes of two people, one an adventure expert who gets the task done and the other, a behavioural science expert. The methodology adopted in OBT/OBL is a problem solved in small groups, with a minimum of two people in each group. Here, the responsibility of learning rests with the person who is participating in the programme. "The training methodology adopted in OBT programmes are much more real with no simulated activities. And with people away from any contacts, inter-dependence increases," says Candade. The exercises during an OBT programme could be anything, from making a stretcher with the available articles and carrying a lame man across a river or to walking a blind man in difficult terrain. Such programmes could be conducted near the beach in the city or up the hill somewhere near Chinglepet or even further beyond the far off Renigunta. Since for each exercise, one person is nominated as the leader, it brings out the leadership quality of each one of them. "Whatever qualities a person identifies himself with is immediately implemented in the work place, resulting in benefits to all concerned," says Candade. Other than corporates, Wildertrails is also poised to enter schools with adventure outings and educational field trips that follow the time-tested principle that education is most effective when all senses are utilised. Says Candade, "Learning should be hand-in-glove and excursions should result in some meaningful learning to students" He feels, most of the schools these days take students to the nearest entertainment parks in the name of excursions. "A visit to an amusement park is only a picnic and not much to learn. This is better done with the family once in a while. Excursions organised by schools should reinforce what a student has learnt in the classroom," he emphasizes. With the launch of its corporate training and school programmes, the club aims to bring the benefits of the outdoors to an expanding group of people, whether it is for fun, adventure training or learning. And in the near future, the club also plans to enter the field of eco-tourism, offering high quality tours for small groups, with the accent on sustainable eco-tourism.