OBS – The Outdoor Classroom II: Inspired to Serve
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Ian at his Leadership & Service Award graduation ceremony

Author: Jodie Wong


“OBS – The Outdoor Classroom” is a series of stories on our participants who have previously attended Outward Bound Singapore (OBS) programmes. These youth stepped forward to share their fondest memories and takeaways from attending the OBS programmes.

Previously, there was Zhan Eng – the young man who applied for the Leadership & Service Award (LSA) for a journey of self-discovery. You may read more about his story here.

Ian Chien, is now featured in the second part of this series – where he was also fortunate to have attended two OBS programmes.

“I attended the 3-day Youth Navigator Programme back in 2016 with my Secondary 3 classmates from Catholic High School,” laughed the Year 3 Nanyang Polytechnic student after giving away his age. He added: “I have also attended the 21-day Classic Challenge Course as part of the OBS LSA in December 2019, with my Scout peers from Catholic High Scout Group.” 

Instructor and Watchmates: Family in OBS

Utilising the outdoors as a classroom, OBS participants are engaged in a variety of activities such as land and/or sea expeditions and problem-solving activities. Through these activities, participants work together with their groupmates (called “watchmates”) from diverse backgrounds to build camaraderie, confidence, and resilience.

During Ian’s LSA journey, he had the opportunity to mix around with people from Junior Colleges, The Institute of Technical Education (often abbreviated as ITE), and a Physical Education teacher. When asked what he missed most from his OBS programmes, he gave a shoutout to his instructor Ray and his watchmates.

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Ian (front row, extreme right) with his 21-day LSA watchmates and instructor Ray Pang (front row, extreme left) during the 21-day Classic Challenge Course in December 2019

“During the programme, Instructor Ray went above and beyond to give us opportunities for personal development. He also shared honest opinions and insights with us on how to better grow as a person,” shared Ian.

On his watchmates, they played a vital role in helping him to overcome the difficulty he faced during the programme. Ian explained: “I enjoyed climbing as a kid, but one incident landed me a hospital visit with 15 stitches. I was a fearless 5 year old who climbed to the top of a shelf, and fell flat on my face after losing my balance. As time passed, I guess that trauma developed my fear of heights. During the height element activities, I mustered my courage and took on the various height elements courses, as I wanted to see how far I could go. With the help of my watchmates spurring me on, I was able to push myself to overcome that mental barrier, and was proud of myself for conquering the rock climbing wall, and about 2/3 of the height elements course.”

When asked to elaborate about the remaining 1/3 of the course, Ian said with a laugh: “I was paired up with another watchmate. It was a height element course that required a lot of strategising on how to reach the top and much physical pulling and pushing of each other up to go up the height element. It was a real test of stamina, and both of us decided to retire at the 2/3 mark. One for all, all for one!”

Besides overcoming his fear of heights, Ian reminisced about his most memorable moment in OBS – an unintentional treasure hunt for his wristwatch during his final expedition on Bintan.

“My wristwatch fell out of my pocket while we were doing static exercises on the beach. I sought help from one of my watchmates, who later conveyed the information to the entire LSA batch of almost 30 people. Although rather embarrassing, it was also a heartwarming and touching moment for me as everyone went all out to search for my prized possession. I couldn’t have found my wristwatch in 10 minutes without everyone’s help,” answered a bashful Ian. He laughed and concluded that one “should not bring valuables or things of sentimental value” to OBS programmes.

Through these experiences, Ian and his watchmates have truly shown us what it means to embody the OBS core value – Teamwork. This has also enlightened Ian to “put in extra effort to forge deeper ties” with Instructor Ray and his watchmates. “I saw the long-term potential in these relationships, considering the fact that I spent 21 precious days with like-minded individuals, who were like family to me. We met up on few occasions after the programme, and we realised that we share a common love for nature. We had planned for nature walks together, but unfortunately, the circuit breaker came. Hence, I believe that we gather together again in the future to inspire and impact the next generation, who share the same interest as us,” explained Ian.


President’s Scout

One main objective of the LSA programme is to strengthen the spirit of giving and caring to the community. It was heartening to personally hear from Ian that OBS has contributed a major role in his dedication to serving the community. Ian shared: “After attending OBS, I was actively involved as a community leader and took up many responsibilities across different organisations. Despite knowing that my academics might be affected, I wanted to challenge myself and achieve my personal goal of having the ability to serve the community.”

His strong involvement in the community has allowed him to attain the President’s Scout Award, the highest award that can be presented to Singapore’s outstanding Venture Scouts (rank for Scouts aged 15 to 18). This award is presented by the President of the Republic of Singapore as a recognition of his excellent leadership and personal performance, his dedication to the Scout movement, and his service to the community.

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Ian (right) receiving the President’s Scout Award from President Halimah Yacob (left)

The road to receiving the highest rank, Venture Scout, in the Singapore Scout Association did not come easy. Ian began his Scouting journey as a Cub Scout (starting rank for all Scouts) at the age of nine and has since progressed to a Rover Scout (rank for Scouts aged 18 to 26). On his dedication to the Scout Movement, Ian shared that it was the “core Scouting values from the Scout Promise and Law” which gave him a “sense of purpose” to “develop as a person”. He elaborated: “I believe in acting with ‘integrity’ for the things that I do, which is community service. I believe in being ‘loyal’ and committed to my family, friends, and Scouting. No man is an island and we would require support in certain parts of our journey. Hence, I would volunteer to ‘help others’ without expecting a reward. Lastly, to develop as a person, it is important to be ‘courageous’ in the face of adversity. I want to be a role model to my juniors, and show them that nothing is impossible until it is done. The secret lies in the mindset and planning for success, instead of waiting and doing nothing or waiting for something to happen.”

As the Chief Secretariat within his Catholic High Scout Group, Ian is currently mentoring the next batch of President's Scouts and secretariats from his alma mater. Ian said: “Scouting gave me many chances to rediscover myself at different stages of life. I just loved the idea of personal development, and I want to guide my juniors on their self-discovery journey.”

Valuable Life Lessons

When asked about any other difficulties faced during his OBS programmes besides his fear of heights, Ian was confident enough to share that OBS was “much more manageable” for him thanks to his strong background in Scouting. Although already well-equipped with outdoor survival skills, he also had his fair share of valuable lessons learnt from OBS.  

“OBS has equipped me with leadership tools such as the Johari Window and Tuckman’s Stages of Group Development. This was definitely something I apply when I’m engaging with the different communities! It has also taught me that the importance of teamwork starts with understanding the strengths and weaknesses of one another. As a Scout, I was quick in picking up sailing knots, however my watchmates required time to pick up these skills. This allowed me to realise that everyone learnt things at different speeds and everyone has different strengths. It comes down to helping one another as a watch, and how we complement one another and accomplish great things together. With that, I have also learnt to be more understanding and patient with others,” said Ian, when asked about the soft skills that he learnt from OBS programmes.

Wrapping up with his tips to future OBS participants, Ian emphasised that all participants should “go with an open mind and positive mindset” and “be able to learn, unlearn and relearn to strive and achieve new heights”. He also added to “plan for the worst, and hope for the best”, as participants should be prepared to face unexpected situations during their self-discovery journey in OBS, and “have the ability and power to change and react accordingly to the surroundings”. 

OBS aspires to inspire many more individuals like Ian, who have clearly shown what it means to be of service to the community, and always strive to become a better person. If you are inspired by his story, visit the Leadership & Service award page here to find out more about this experience of a lifetime!