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Challenge Program '16 set to live up to its name
“The CFA Challenge Program taught me that I can rise to any challenge – I can even climb a mountain apparently.”
Katelyn Stares, pictured above, now a senior member at Sebastopol, says if it wasn't for experiences such as the Challenge Program, which she attended in 2014, she wouldn't be the person she is today.
On 8 January, members from 21 brigades from 13 districts will begin the 2016 Challenge Program which for 21 years has been described as a life-changing experience by attendees.
The 2016 cohort consists of two groups – one made up of 16-17 year olds and one for those aged 18 or above.
Both will do a similar program that involves three days of classroom-based activities in Creswick followed by a week-long camp in the bush near Buchan.
Coordinator Roz Long said a series of adventure-style outdoor activities (including abseiling, rock climbing and caving) were planned that would stretch participants and emphasise teamwork and leadership.
“The Challenge Program focuses the participants on setting goals, building team values and understanding stress reactions.” she said.
“It’s about people maximising their potential while operating in a safe environment.”
The skills and capabilities members put to the test at Buchan will be first developed during a preparatory classroom-based phase held at the University of Melbourne’s Creswick Campus.
This personal development phase will emphasise skills vital to working in a team environment, such as understanding different ways in which individuals react, communicate and express emotion.
The techniques the 33 members cover will benefit them not only in an emergency response capacity but in day-to-day work or study.
Following three days at Creswick, participants will leave for Gippsland on Tuesday 12 January, and return the following Tuesday for a Fellowship Dinner and graduation ceremony with family and friends.
Roz said that a follow-up day was planned to ensure the experience stayed relevant and fresh in participants’ minds even after they had returned to their everyday lives.
“About three months down the track they will meet again to catch up, refresh what they have learned, and to work with a facilitator to work through new theories and practical skills to further assist them throughout their lives,” she said.
Since 1994 more than 800 members have taken part in the Chairman’s Scholarship/Challenge program.
Katelyn Stares started with CFA at Dereel Fire Brigade as a Junior and is now with Sebastopol Fire Brigade. She is studying a Bachelor of Community and Human Services at Federation University.
Roz Long is a volunteer engagement specialist in CFA’s Learning and Volunteerism department.