Duke of Ed Silver Trip: Long-Lasting Memories

Note:  This blog was written some time ago and was never published. The content remains relevant. Enjoy!


Friday, November 2 kicked off the Duke of Edinburgh Silver trip at Camp Nominingue for 15 grade ten students and three accompanying staff. Though there were a few bumps along the way (literally, considering two bags fell off the bus and went missing on the way up) altogether it was an unforgettable experience. The two and a half hour bus ride up to the camp gave us a great opportunity to bond with the people we were to be spending four days and three nights in the woods 2012_2013_Duke_of_Ed_Fall_Trip_107with. Other than the cold weather forecast, the fact that we were to sleep in tents and prepare our own meals, we had no idea what to expect.

When we first arrived, we were faced with a giant field in the middle of the woods which was where we were to camp out. We got our bags and tents and began to assemble our living spaces in our groups of two or three. We had a great meal of pasta and salad sitting around our first fire that we made with a little difficulty. Our first activity of the trip consisted of a long walk in the dark around the Camp Nominingue grounds. We ended our night by individually listing the high and low point of our day.  Despite shivering in our sleeping bags at night and waking up to frost around our tents, it was a great way to start off the trip.

The two full days that followed were filled with multiple activities that kept us entertained throughout the day. Alongside three course meals that were prepared by each tent group, hot chocolate and snacks, we were ready to go on our excursions. Our second day adventure consisted of an hour and a half long hike through the woods. We came across a bear skeleton, a carnivorous plant and walked on marshland. That night we ate pirogies and enjoyed another walk across the campground.

Our third day activity was a canoe ride along the lake to another island where we hiked up to a peak with an absolutely phenomenal view. We ate lunch on the island and spent most of our day singing songs on the boat and getting a great bicep and triceps workout along the way. That night, we ate and preformed our entertaining skits for the talent show we had been “preparing for” since the very beginning. We finished our night off with another walk in the woods, but this time, in single file and in complete silence. At the end of the walk, we lay dispersed throughout another open field and watch the stars above us. The walk overall didn’t go exactly as planned with a few kids getting lost along the way, but when we were all reunited we shared a long laugh and more hot chocolate.

We participated in many smaller activities throughout the trip such as building lean-tos, splitting wood, making fires, and a few team management activities on the last day.

By the fourth and final day, we were all excited to take a warm shower and be home to our families, but at the same time, sad to be leaving. We left our campground with long-lasting memories and a better appreciation of our privileged lives. I highly recommend all students in younger grades take a bigger interest in the Duke of Ed program and definitely partake on the Silver trip.

Thank you very much to Mrs. Wall, Mr. Weiland and M. Maurice for making this “dreaded” trip fun-filled and enjoyable. – Vikki Van Ryswyk ‘14

Duke of Ed Gold Trip 2012: Peru Expedition Update

March 8, 2012

Upon my return to Peru, I did not know what to expect. I would soon find out that, although many landmarks were familiar to me, I was seeing everything in a completely new light. I was wiser and the shantytowns of Lima didn’t shock me. Rather they incited me to want to get to work immediately!

We spent four days in Las Palmas completing our community service project, which included a new set of stairs, a new fence, a fresh coat of paint and a new roof. By the fourth day, every student had mixed feelings about leaving Las Palmas. Although we may have been filled with excitement with the prospects of beginning the hike in Cusco, we would be leaving behind a community to which we had grown very close.– Emily Tiberi ’12

Five days ago, eighteen LCC students who would work on the service project in Las Palmas flew into the desert city, Lima. With last years experience doing the service project and the Salkantay Trek, I didn’t feel nervous. I was rather excited to see how things had changed over a year.

Every morning, when driving to Las Palmas, I noticed that the poverty levels hadn’t changed. The chaotic way of life and the number of shantytowns stacked on the desert was the same. It seemed as if I had not left Peru last March. When working at the community, the locals treated us with the same respect and warmth they had shown us in 2011. I remembered their names and faces and so did they. Under the scorching heat, we worked on the concrete roof until the very last minute. Today, we fly to Cusco. We are anxious about the hike, but at the same time, excited to walk the same path where Incas and adventurers explored.– Kenya Shatani (Pre-U ’12)

Duke of Ed Bronze Trip: New Friends, New Skills and Teamwork

This year, the grade 9 class had the opportunity to participate in an incredible experience trip that introduced us to the Duke of Edinburgh program (view photo gallery). Not only did we learn useful outdoor skills, the trip also afforded us the opportunity to bond with the 20 new students we welcomed to the class of 2014 at the start of this year.

The moment I heard that this year’s trip was taking place in Notre-Dâme de la Rouge, I knew it would be amazing. This town has already had a great impact on my life: my late uncle was the mayor of Grenville Sur la Rouge for many years.

Canoeing, tenting, hiking and skill management are all examples of the many activities included in this excursion. Grouped into pairs of houses, we had the chance to interact with new classmates and some “old ones” whom we did not know so well. Each activity consisted of a new skill, more concentration and teamwork. The canoeing activity clearly brought out the best of each advisory’s team spirit and leadership. The risk management brought out the best of our fear and concentration, and paid off with a new accomplishment. The hiking led to intense conversation and new friendships. Culminating by some astonishing waterfalls, the hike was one of the best activities of all. Last but not least, the team challenges activity helped us build new aptitudes and further developed collaboration between advisees as well as our interpersonal team skills.

Some of us were given the opportunity to sleep in tents on a separate island close by. This involved canoeing with our necessities, assembling and disassembling our tents and enjoying hotdogs and marshmallows by the bonfire.

Overall, this year’s experience trip was unforgettable. Thank you LCC for giving us the chance to dive headfirst into a new school year. —Victoria Van Ryswyk ’14

The Salkantay Trek – Peru 2011

Blog_SacantayTrail_Peru2011There we were, a group of 21 students on a four-hour bus ride awaiting our camping destination. For most of us, the Salkantay trail possessed both wonder and a sense of “je ne sais quoi” as we, teenagers from Canada, would be trekking through the Andes of Peru, a place foreign to all of us. Many of us were excited to start the hiking part of the journey after completing a week of community service in Las Palmas, which although extremely rewarding, was also quite dirty. Of course, the definition of “dirty” was changed along with our experiences on this trip. Dirty was no longer food stuck in one’s teeth, dirty now qualified as not having showered for four days and having mud caked on one’s face. As we arrived at our campsite, we were faced with a breathtaking mountain, with snow adorning its peak. Our tents had already been set up by the wonderful, and most helpful, crew of native Peruvians, all who accompanied us on our trek. In a way, the crew was like our shadow, meeting us at the destination to set up our tents and prepare us food, well before we all arrived, and then waking us up early in the morning to serve us “cocoa tea,” a Peruvian favourite.

As the first morning of our trek began, the sun illuminated the snow surrounding us, creating a picture-perfect moment. We were all excited to begin our journey, not phased with the cold we were so used to back home. We marched together as a united force for a while, until we started to reach steep inclines. Then our group seemed to separate into three, those strong ones at the front, those in the middle, and those who were in the back of the group. Being a part of the “back group,” I am proud to say that there is no shame involved in falling behind. The teachers always made it clear to go at our own pace and not to push ourselves too much. In a way, being in the back gave me a chance to connect with different people, whether it was by telling stories, playing games such as the all too popular “Ghost,” or by our collective determination to reach the top. It was a very proud moment when our group reached the top, as we placed the stones we had picked up at the bottom of the mountain, and placed them on top of each other, a ritual designed to respect Pachamama. Pachamama is what the Peruvians call Mother Earth, she allows for some to have a safe journey through the mountains. It seems that on this particular day, Pachamama was irritated as we were walking through freezing rain for the better part of the day. However, the rain finally stopped and we all made it back to our campsite, whether on foot or on emergency mule.

The next early morning, we all groaned at the prospect of climbing steep inclines yet again. However, our group leader, Julie, who was extremely kind and helpful, informed us that today would be mostly flat, with very few inclines. True to her promise, the second day of hiking was probably the most enjoyable. The sun was out, there was a nice pool of water that we could dunk our feet into during a rest, and for the most part, the group was united. Also, the last leg of the day was spent walking through a small Peruvian village. During the walk in the village, we got a small taste of Peruvian life as we got to witness young children coming home from the local school and also see the local equivalents of depanneurs, which were surrounded by chickens. Stopping at one of the depanneurs to buy Doritos, I realized that munching on something so familiar made me happy to be away from home. We were all experiencing something new; we were a part of something eye- opening and bigger than 21 students put together. We all realized this, and we all wanted in.

Finally, the last day of our hike arrived. Most of us were tired from the long trek the day before and from the sounds of two dogs barking endlessly into the night, waking everybody up. Yes, the morning of today’s hike would be difficult, as we were walking up a very steep incline and then walking down a very steep decline. Honestly, walking up that hill was probably one of the most physically exhausting things many of us have ever done. I could hear the sounds of tears, cursing and heavy breathing as we all fumbled up the jungle path. What seemed to go on forever soon ended, as we were greeted by a high-five from Yuri, another animated group leader of ours, as he congratulated us for finishing the hardest part.

After the morning hill, we spent the rest of the day hiking through what seemed to be a jungle, as there was plant and insect life all around us. Tiptoeing through large red-footed millipedes and equally large green caterpillars, we finally made it down to flat land. With our feet hurting and our legs buckling under us, we walked through a construction zone and past an extremely large waterfall, which seemed to be the source of the large river to our left. My friend and I momentarily stopped near the waterfall to feel its mist surrounding our bodies, which was extremely refreshing. The smell of mint filled the air, as there was wild mint growing in the area. Finally, after walking for a while longer, we met up with the rest of the group who was enjoying lunch. After finishing my soup and as I was about to dig into my main course, the teachers informed us that we had a choice: either we walk another 10km to the campsite, or we take the train immediately. All of us, except for two strong souls, not leapt but bounded at the opportunity to ride the train. Scarfing down my meal in record time, we boarded the train and relaxed during the 20-minute ride. We had finished our trek, and Macchu Picchu lay just around the corner. That night was spent celebrating as we all high fived each other and gave each other knowing smiles. Yes, we Montrealers had done it; we had completed the Salkantay trail!

Looking back, I’m proud that we all had the courage and strength to pull through. Not only am I proud of us as a group, I’m also proud of how we all came through as individuals during the trek. In a way, the best of everyone’s individual traits shone through, which not only made for a strong group, but for very good company during the hike as well. Although it was difficult—very difficult at times—if I had the chance to do it again, you bet I would. —Isabelle Thibault ’11

Community Service Reflection in Lima, Peru – Duke of Edinburgh Gold Trip 2011

Blog_Peru2011_StairsEver since I was first introduced to the concept of community service in grade 7, I have attempted to draw a closer connection to why students were asked to allocate 15 hours minimum every year to help their community. With so many community service opportunities available to students, as well as such a busy extra-curricular life, it seemed to me that students often felt unattached to the reasons behind their efforts. When I was told that as part of my Duke of Edinburgh Gold trip I would have to complete four days of grueling community service in a small community named Las Palmas, I had no way of predicting that this experience would mark me and radically force me to rethink my preconceived notion of what it meant to help another.

The day after our arrival in Peru, we met students from Markham College, in Lima, who had volunteered their time to help us perform our community service, building a set of stairs upon a steep hill, which would allow the members of said community to reach their houses and get around with ease. It all seemed like a valiant effort on our parts. The arrival of the Canadians would improve the lives of the people in need. Little did we know that the next fours days would probably have a larger effect on our lives than of those people in Las Palmas. Upon our arrival at the work sight, we debriefed, talked about the needs of the community and what we expected to gain from our experience and, very soon after, we commenced what I’m sure was the most grueling work any of us had ever undertaken.

Our stay in Las Palmas challenged us to reconsider our reasoning behind why we chose to take part in this project. Working alongside the locals who took pride in the work that we were to accomplish in the next few days, we gathered sand and stone, carried enormous bags of cement up steep, sandy hills, made concrete and poured it into molds that we had previously created for the stair, prepared the platform for the stairs, etc. I can honestly say that this was the most demanding work that we had ever undertaken and although many of us questioned why we had accepted to perform such exhausting work, there was a single moment that for many of us, made it all worthwhile. After the first series of steps were built and dried, the students from the nearby school, all under the age of 10 years, joined us to relish in our accomplishments. Amazed by our work they began to run up and down the stairs with a look of sheer joy plastered on their faces.

I am sure that all of the students lucky enough to go on this trip will never forget their experience and how much they were affected by the chance to help a community in need. The work was not pretty nor was it prestigious, but never have I taken part in something so gratifying. It was so evident to us how much the community had appreciated our work and although our time was limited, how much our relationships with the people we encountered will sculpt our upcoming years.

Looking upon those steps on the last days, I could not help but feel a sense of pride, not only in our work, but in our attempt to learn about a new culture, to unquestioningly be prepared to undertake any of the work that needed to be completed, but most importantly, I was proud in our readiness to leave all comfort zones aside in the effort to create something so much bigger that a few flights of stairs in a small community in Peru. –Noah Schouela ’11