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Visit to the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards RYLA)

Every year, in late July and early August, the two District 1040 RYLA courses take place at the Scout Activity Centre at Hebden Hey. The centre is just north of Hebden Bridge on the edge of the Hebden Water valley near Hardcastle Crags and is approached along a 1.5 mile single-track road with no passing places! The centre is not luxurious but provides dormitories, meeting and dining rooms and basic facilities for the 32 16-17 year old participants and their adult leaders and support team.

This splendid opportunity is open to young people aged 16 or 17 years at the time of the course which concentrates on leadership development, yet offers many personal and group challenges which require teamwork. Courses run from a Sunday arrival before 10am to a 10am departure the following Friday and the 5 days are crammed with activities. They are each allocated to 4 teams of 8 in which they remain for the week, so they soon learn to work together and get to know the others very well.

York Rotary has sponsored RYLA students for many years and on Tuesday 1st August, IPP Mary Lumley, Youth Services Team Member Dave Marchant and Leader Eileen Davis responded to the invitation to the RYLA Open Day. This was a chance to meet what was the second week’s staff team, to look around the premises and surrounding environs which are used for the many outdoor tasks and to learn more about the course content whilst observing current activities and how they were organised.

The staff team is led by District 1040 RYLA Leader Lucy Armitage (nee Hodgson) of Halifax Rotary, pictured above with fellow Halifax Rotarian Linda, a mentor who is willing to turn her hand to many other tasks. Lucy is ably supported by Halifax Rotarian Ken Robertshaw who was the previous RYLA Leader and now acts as premises manager, driver and general supporter. There is a host of other highly committed adults; these include professional course leaders, volunteer mentors and administrator support staff, some of whom are Rotarians, Inner Wheelers and friends. The core team is residential but others come in daily.

At the time of our visit, the 4 teams of 8 young people were engaged in the 4 main activities - “Murder Hunt” (as pictured above – don’t ask!), “Rescue”, “Mask”, “Coracle”, “Stretched”, “Traverse”, “Traverse - Mentor” and “Raft Race”. Over the course, groups rotate around these daytime activities and then there are evening sessions which via challenges, games and discussions (with odd names like “DJ” and “Auction”) bring out personal strengths and development needs. There is an overnight “bivvie”, a BBQ and talent night. One session is devoted to learning about Rotary. The environment for all of the challenges and activities is very supportive and participants are closely observed and directed.

This was an impressive visit and re-energised us to recruit young people for future RYLA courses. This is Rotary at its best - People in Action indeed.

Eileen Davis

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