I was on my way to join 30 year 9 boys and a team of Duke of Edinburgh Award Assessors.
Arriving in Park Street, I met Daniel Lever from JLGB who was sitting in his van with his computer and showing me, through a tracker system where all the groups of boys were.
We then drove off into the countryside where the tracker was showing where a group of boys were about to walk. After a few minutes, a group of five enthusiastic boys carrying all their equipment in rucksacks appeared. After a quick photo, off they went to continue their expedition.
Daniel and myself spent the rest of the day going around meeting the groups, encouraging them to keep going and find their destination – the campsite. The boys, only using maps and compasses impressed me very much with the effort they put in to working out their countryside route.
Around six o’clock in the evening, the groups started arriving on the campsite. Despite the torrential rain, the boys were upbeat and set for the next task which was to pitch their tents. Once all the tents were pitched, the boys started preparing their supper, using their camping equipment and made some very interesting dishes.
Watching the boys be so self-efficient, using the camping techniques which the DoE taught them gave me such enthusiasm to keep this program running for many years. Following supper, we all gathered in the campsite hut to daven Mincha. Following Mincha, I took the opportunity to say a few words to the boys which was then followed by Maariv.
After Maariv, the boys had to go back to the camping field and start preparing for bed. With instructions, nothing was allowed to be kept outside the tent and any mess had to be cleaned up, the boys all set to the task without any fuss.
Thursday morning, 6 AM, a few of the boys woke up and decided to make some hot chocolate using their camping equipment to boil the water. By 7:30, some of the tents had been taken down and the boys were all in Shacharis.
At Shacharis, we welcomed a special guest, Rabbi Sulzbacher who came to join us. The boys davened and Leined during Shacharis and following it, the Menahel shlita spoke a few words of Divrei Torah to the boys.
After Shacharis, the boys had breakfast, put away their tents, cleared up the campsite, packed their rucksacks and with their compasses and maps, headed back to the public pathways of the countryside to complete day 2 of the expedition.
The boys did this task with such enthusiasm and courage, it was great to see the amazing self-confidence of the boys working hard to finish day 2 of their expedition.
With encouragement to keep going, by 3 o’clock, the first few groups arrived at Elstree station to complete their expedition. Seeing the accomplished look on the boys faces, feeling a sense of outstanding achievement, for me was the biggest nachas to get for all the work and organisation that it took to get this program going. Boys who wanted to drop out, boys that were struggling, all completed it to the end.
These boys all passed their assessment and in my eyes all deserve a great big thank you for just showing us how nice good yiddisher boys can spend two days in the open having fun and at the same time feeling a sense of life with responsibility For me, this has given a big chizuk to continue the work we do for the boys and hoping that this partnership can work for many more boys over the years to come.
I would like to thank Rabbi Sulzbacher, Menahel of MGS and Daniel Lever of JLGB for allowing the privilege to be part of this wonderful positive program.