CReW: Youth Challenge Kayak Program
In the spring of 2006 members of the Cornwall Recreational Whitewater Club and the Directors of the Adventure Sports Access Group Inc. sat together, opened their eyes and saw a need.
So many children and teens around us do not have the same good fortunes as our own. Good fortune does not necessarily imply that they are from households that are “financially challenged”. It encompasses a broader spectrum of influences from financial to emotional issues.
Although these are often the kids we associate with the highly visible “troublesome kids” it is also the quiet children who do not get out. They go un-noticed in their community and although they reach out to us they are unseen. Most importantly they are children full of emotions, strengths and weaknesses; at times calm as a quiet pond or as unpredictable as the most turbulent river.
Our rivers are in many ways like these children: all around us – at times rough – at times calm – turbulent – fragile – worthy of respect – often reaching out but seldom heard.
By introducing these two precious resources, our children and our rivers/waterways, to one another we have been able to bring a light and a future to each. Each one is in need of protection, care and love.
Kayaking has provided us with a means to reach out to the kids who are looking for something, like themselves, that is special. Kayaking is an adventure that allows children and teens to explore themselves. It requires self-confidence, physical and mental strengths, concentration and a respect for the environment.
What do we do? We Challenge Young People.
Each year we, through the “CReW: Youth Challenge Kayak Program”, bring our volunteers and equipment out to the local rivers and introduce kids to kayaking.
- We challenge them to learn something new; master themselves so that they can master the sport.
- We challenge them to be a part of their environment; to run with the river rather than against it.
- We challenge them to look around themselves and see how they affect the waters and each other.
- We then challenge them to step up and make a difference.
All this while learning a new sport and being allowed to simply be kids.
Does it work? YES.
The last 4 seasons have brought over 150 young people and our rivers together. During each program we watched them all grow and develop.
The increased self-confidence (from “I can’t” to “I think I can” then “I know I can”), an appreciation for the environment and safety and the improvement in their own fitness, the improved sense of community (strangers become buddies and then become friends) is real and can be measured.
The results have come back to us even after the season is over. Many of the young people in our programs continue to kayak and be a part of our community when the program ends.
Some of these kids have even come back to us after the program to volunteer so that other kids can experience what they have seen.
By challenging our young people to step up on and off the river, we have empowered them to use the tools they have always had in order to become productive and positive members of their communities in the years to come.