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Alex Douglas-Kane shares her experiences and understanding of Discover Nature Awareness

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Rites of Passage

Some years ago a friend and colleague and I were working with some young men from Essex and who were without fathers or positive male role models in their lives. We had decided that as part of their programme and to celebrate their achievements that towards the end of the programme it would be good to spend a weekend in the woods doing some wilderness living skills and nature awareness activities.

We set them the task of building a group shelter and along the way if any issues came up we had all agreed that we would deal with them as a group which meant that if someone had a problem they could call circle time and if it was safe to do so we would stop and sort out the problem there and then. This happened a few times during the day and it was good to see these young men dealing them the problems in a responsible way and coming to an agreement with each other to everyone satisfaction, it has to be said that at the beginning of the programme they were very negative about their lives and what the future might hold for them.

At the end of the weekend course we wanted them to have a 'Rites of Passage' as I said to celebrate their achievements and for this we drafted in a friend of sixty plus years, he was to take on the role of an Elder. As darkness fell on their last evening together, we then set them their task which was to make their way to the far side of the sixty acre woodland we were in. They had to stalk up to a camp fire which was being guarded, their mission was to remove a cylum each and return to their shelter without being caught by the 'Hunter Force' which WAS out looking for them. The cylums (see picture) glow very brightly in the dark, so to conceal these and not be detected by the 'Hunter Force' was a job well done.

Their task was completed once they passed under a tree that had broken in two and was laying in such a way that it formed an archway. Just a short distance from the tree was the shelter they had built and standing at the entrance waiting to welcome them home was the Elder, behind him a roaring fire with hot stew on the go and the sound of drums playing could be heard and felt by them as they approached the archway.

As I said they all completed their task without being caught, because they had all taken their time and had truly immersed themselves into their mission. Once they where home safe and sound they could not wait to share their experience with the Elder myself and my friend, well we were in the background just letting things unfold with our hearts filled with the joy of these young men.

It was an amazing sight to see them engaging with the Elder in such a way that we had not seen since we were kids, it was clear that the healing that took place between them was solely for them (remember these men were without fathers) our job was done and so we retired to bed safe in the knowledge that something quite amazing had happened that night, something I am guessing they will never forget.

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