by Alicia Wong
In December 2020, OBS conducted a character development programme for the Darul Ihsan Orphanage – a total of twelve boys and girls. The programme utilised the outdoors to guide them on a journey of self-discovery in the outdoors and within themselves. The programme also enabled them to practice care and respect towards themselves and those in their community.
The intensity level of OBS programmes are carefully designed to achieve a set of specific outcomes that also takes into consideration the participants’ capabilities. The Darul Ihsan programme was designed to focus on the building up of the youth’s self-esteem and confidence at their own pace.
COVID-19 has definitely posed us many challenges, especially when it came to the preparation and execution of the programme. With human touch and interaction being key factors for bonding and understanding others’ way of life, this was a large obstacle to overcome since this had to be minimised.
As COVID-19 restrictions were in place, paying a visit to the orphanage was not possible. Observing the youth in their daily routines was critical for the Instructors, as they needed to identify how the utilisation of the outdoors could empower them in building their self-esteem and confidence. The visit was replaced with an online webinar session, to provide the Instructors with some insights and perspectives on the youth’s personalities and behaviours at home. It also gave the Instructors a better sensing of how to engage the youth to better build rapport with them.
With the participants coming from varied backgrounds, Instructors needed time to understand their culture, slang, and language. Hence, a face-to-face pre-course briefing session was conducted to allow both the Instructors and the youth to build rapport with each other before the programme commenced.
As Safe Management Measures (SMMs) had to be implemented, extra attention was needed to manage and execute the programme smoothly. Activities were carefully chosen to ensure that SMMs were adhered to, while still meeting the desired learning outcomes for the youth. Throughout the programme, the Instructors empowered the participants to be responsible in adhering to the SMMs but were also patient in reminding them in areas they forgot.
Receiving a positive response from the youth was definitely the main highlight for the Instructors. Mutual and genuine trust was developed and forged during the programme, which allowed deep and meaningful conversations to take place. This has eventually helped to maximise the unique learning points for every individual, as they went through the programme with an open mind after gaining trust from the Instructors.
Prior to the programme, the Instructors were generally excited, but apprehensive and nervous at the same time. However, all of them ensured to keep an open mind and conducted the programme to the best of their abilities. “I was very excited and looking forward to it, but at the same time I was concerned about whether I could engage and impact the participants,” shared instructor Maya. Instructor Mirza initially thought that the youth from Darul Ihsan Orphanage were fragile and volatile, and needed to be treated very delicately. However, he found out that his worries were needless. The rapport building that began from the face-to-face pre-course briefing session made bonding with the youth a breeze during the 5-day programme. He also summed up by sharing that it was overall a very humbling experience where learning was a 2-way street.
The welfare officers of Darul Ihsan Orphanage felt that Instructors managed the SMMs well throughout the programme. In addition, the consistent and open communication between both parties was appreciated, as this helped to facilitate discussions on how to better cater to the youth’s needs.
The Darul Ihsan programme was challenging to plan and was executed amidst the COVID-19 restrictions. With the support of a dedicated OBS team and the cooperation of Darul Ihsan staff, the programme was a huge success.
OBS hopes that all participants who attended an OBS programme, will walk away impacted in one way or another, and more importantly believe that they are capable of much more than they think. To discover more about yourself and to have a once-in-a-lifetime experience, click here, to see what OBS has to offer!