Parents learn the ropes at Outward Bound Singapore

Her son has not yet turned two, but when it is time for him to go through an Outward Bound Singapore (OBS) camp in Secondary 3, stay-at-home mum Sharon Wan will have an idea of what he can expect.

She had the chance to take on a challenge ropes course at OBS' Pulau Ubin campus yesterday during an open day, the first event of its kind in OBS' 49-year-old history.

The event aimed to give the public a better understanding of what the organisation is about.

"It was scary at first, but it's an opportunity to get out of my comfort zone and build some confidence," said the 34-year-old, who welcomed the Ministry of Education's recent decision to make OBS compulsory for Secondary 3 students from 2020. About 100 people - mostly parents - participated yesterday.

"I hope my son will be able to go for these activities in the future. It's good for children to get to do things besides studying," she said.

OBS' assistant director for programmes and partnerships, Mr Louis Soo, 38, said the centre will hold more events like this so that the public can better understand its activities and objectives as it expands its capacity and programmes.

Open house events will be held at least twice a year, offering a variety of activities such as kayaking, field cooking and orienteering, facilitated by OBS instructors. There will also be initiatives for youth to learn about how to protect the environment through service projects.

One, Project IsLand-A-Hand, which started last year, is a full-day programme that sends volunteers to Pulau Ubin and Coney Island to do their part for the environment by constructing bird nesting boxes, helping with mangrove and coastal clean-ups and conducting surveys of bird species, among other things.

Mr Soo said: "Students come to us every year and parents need to know what's happening. Some have perceptions of OBS being a survival camp or boot camp, but that's not what OBS is about. There are a lot of reflection moments, which allow them to apply their learning after the programme."

Kenji Goh, a Secondary 1 student at Ngee Ann Secondary, learnt more about Outward Bound's history and heritage yesterday - and was particularly interested in the replica of the vessel Indiana, the ship on which Sir Stamford Raffles sailed in to Singapore, and which now greets visitors to the island campus.

The 13-year-old said: "It was interesting because you can climb up to the top of the ship's mast and have a look around the island."

His mother, housewife Satsuki Kawada, 49, tried rock climbing at the OBS campus yesterday.

"I always wondered how it would feel to do it," said the permanent resident. "You don't have to reach the top. You can choose to stop at a level that you're comfortable with."

This article was first published on May 1, 2016.
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