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Discovery program in Labrador West teaches youth outdoor skills

Participants in the program.
Participants in the program. - Gary Shaw

The Labrador West Discovery program is a first-year program that has been offered in Labrador West through a Gateway Labrador initiative. This program is for youth, ages 12 to 17. The group has been meeting on Thursday nights at the Gateway building with presenters there to share the necessary dialogue and hands-on skills that will teach our young people the many disciplines and practical skills required to not only be functional, but safe in the great outdoors of the big land.

Provincial wildlife professionals and search and rescue members have already given of their time and expertise to this program.

A recent event was held at the Smokey Mountain Ski Lodge with judges assigned to review the performance of the participants. The participants were given a mock scenario where they and a group of friends were engaged in a “quick" 50-kilometre snowmobile trip outside of town.

Everything was fine until snowmobile trouble leads to machines breaking down in a heavily wooded area. They are faced with no cell phone service, no GPS, no cabin access and are not within walking distance to any road or highway. They find themselves completely isolated with no outside support to fall back on. The challenge they are faced with is to safely spend the night in the woods, survive with what gear they have and be able to make it through the night with their own hand gear and survival knowledge they possess.

This group was judged on a number of key issues that the participants will be faced with and what actions are taken. A key issue is their ability to recognize the signs and symptoms of hypothermia and take corrective and proactive first aid measures to address this issue.

Clothing is another critical piece of the success or failure of getting through their night in the woods. Winter boots, warm hats, mitts and neck warmers as well as good snow pants and snow jackets are all part of the overall success of surviving the situation they are in.

Extra gear that includes a good tarp and a supply of dry matches for shelter from the wind and a warm fire are also critical components for this scenario.

Teamwork, cooperation and good communications are also important components for success. Tasks are identified and people assigned to these tasks so that all the components necessary for a successful night are addressed.

All of the lessons that these young folks learn and practice through this program are important life lessons that will follow them wherever their future takes them.

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