Last week concluded Youth Odyssey’s third 2015 summer camp, the On the Water canoe camp. This camp focused on teaching life skills through canoeing, an activity heavily based on teamwork, trust, and communication. Our youth excelled at all three, making for a wonderful week!
Camp was hosted at the beautiful Martin Dies Jr State Park in East Texas, where the Angelina and Neches rivers meet. The first day consisted mainly of driving, and of youth getting to know one another. We arrived at camp around 4pm, which gave us time to set up camp and get situated for the day ahead.
Tuesday started with the youth learning how to make French Toast, many promised to make it for their parents when they returned, we’ll see how that goes! The morning was full of Program Facilitator Brian teaching the youth the basics of canoeing, such as paddle strokes and parts of the canoe, on land. After lunch, we all jumped in canoes to put the theoretical into practice. It took a bit of time, but once the youth felt comfortable paddling, we asked them to jump out of their boats! A big part of safety in a canoe is understanding what to do if they flip over, so we practiced T rescues. For this amazing bunch, the hardest part of rescuing a boat was convincing them they wanted to stop swimming and get back in!
A major idea behind the On the Water camp is to gradually increase the youth’s confidence by presenting them with more and more difficult challenges as they grow and learn as a team. Martin Dies Jr State Park has a variety of paddling trails, each varying in their length and difficulty, and after Tuesday’s beginner lesson youth partnered up and canoed four miles around one of the State Park’s unique islands.
The three hours on the water didn’t phase a single youth! Navigation skills were especially important, as the paddling trail went through marshes filled with plants and trees. Youth took turns being the power in the front and the steering in the back, with a nice break right in the middle to practice more T rescues.
Day Four was the most challenging day of all. The paddling trail was eight miles long and had taken the previous year’s group ten hours to complete. It took this year’s group only six! Excellent communication skills, a willingness to work with one another, and a huge amount of trust between partners saw youth steering around tight bends in the river with ease, avoiding strainers and sweepers in the water, and generally giving off an impressive Pocahontas vibe the whole day.
After all the hard work of three days canoeing, Day Five was a day for youth to relax, enjoy the area around them, and strengthen their bond as a group. The youth were allowed to make their own schedule for the day and, not surprisingly with this group of fish, it hugely focused on playing in the water.
Exhausted but happy campers crawled into their tents only to be woken before the sun the next morning to head back to Corpus Christi. Here at Youth Odyssey, we are so proud of these mature, capable youth and hope to see them again soon!