Having taken part in the Bronze International Award programme in April earlier this year, last week I made another step forward into participating in the Silver International Award adventurous journey to Ning’Hai (located in Ningbo). The International Award programme gave me another brand new challenge and allowed me to achieve it in a fun and exciting way, but most importantly I was able to share this purposeful experience with my friends at school. Although the award included aspects of service, skill and sports, the expedition for me was the most jolly and meaningful part of it.
During our three day challenge, we were tested on our ability to communicate effectively as a team and to achieve solutions to real life problems, such as the procurement of food suitable to be prepared and consume on the trip. We were tested on our navigating skills as we were forced to travel using compasses for long amounts of time, but with high spirits and determination, we were able to achieve our goal in reaching the finish line.
‘The Team Is Only as Fast as the Slowest Person’
This is something I learned that meant the most to me on the journey last week. As a chosen group leader, I was responsible for the whole team, to help them whenever I could and to make sure no one was left behind. This was just one of many things that I have learnt from my experiences in the International Award programme. It is important that everybody works as a team in order to succeed in the journey because they are the only people you can rely on most of the time. Without teamwork, there will be no success but otherwise cause problems instead.
The International Award programme truly is something more people should become aware of and get involved in. An individual challenge which encourages personal discovery and growth, self-confidence, perseverance, responsibility towards themselves and also service to their community.
I don’t have a single regret about participating in the International Award, not walking hours in the wrong direction nor tiredness from hiking numerous hours, not one! This is by far one of the most memorable experiences I have had in my life. So if any of you who are thinking of doing the award in the future, I would recommend people like you to give it a go because if you never try, you would never realize the unbelievable satisfaction that comes after completing the award.
After the first night in an unexpected, comfortable bed at the hotel we took a bus to the start of our trek. However, before we started our hike up the mountains we revised and learnt basic mapping skills including how to use a compass and find bearings. Each group began the days walk at different times. After awaiting our turn we left the small, Chinese, local village and entered the green mountainous area in which we spent the next two days.
The first day was the hardest with steep inclines and although the bamboo forest provided shade the heat made it worse. Through joyful singing and the support of each group member we made it to the top where we had our lunch leaning against our backpacks, surrounded by green tea plantations, enjoying the fresh air. After another couple of hours of hiking, always checking which turn to take according to the compass, we made it to our first campsite next to a small lake in a village consisting of two or three buildings. We cooked our dinner sheltered under a long pavilion. The atmosphere was amazing with all the groups cooking their own dinners in the glow of their flashlights.
Even though it rained the first night our tent became dry because of the wind before we pulled it down. Once breakfast was eaten and all water bottles filled we made our way out of the village back into the green. Not like the previous day, on this day the hike was a lot more relaxing as we trekked through the forest to a lunch spot on top of a saddle. Going downhill was relieving and our backpacks had become much lighter after all the food we had already eaten. Although we took a ‘long-cut’ instead of the hoped for short-cut, we arrived at the campsite next to a large dam. We pitched our tents on the stony gravel and began making dinner once again. After that we huddled in our rain jackets as it started to drizzle and talked until we were told to go to our tents.
The next morning we packed everything and walked the final distance to the stone village in which the buses awaited us. Different to the other two days we this time walked on a road through some small villages in which the friendly locals greeted us. When we finally arrived at the bus station we waited for the remaining groups and went to our last lunch before the train ride home.
In general the IA journey was extremely fun thanks to the nice guides, amazing groups and wonderful environment. I can’t wait for next year’s Gold International Award.