Mrs Liz Hood (Perth Academy):
Despite the blue sky and the strong sunshine, it was bitterly cold as I sat on the 4,700m summit. The warm glow of achievement—of reaching the top—and the exhilaration of standing higher than I had ever stood before made the previous few hours, in which the slopes had grown steeper and fear and trepidation had spread among us, suddenly insignificant. I thought of my family and friends back in Scotland: "If they could see me now!" How often have we been faced with insecurity and lack of confidence, yet found an inner strength.
This was no solo journey, but a team challenge that started as far back as two years ago, when I was asked to step in because the link teacher was unable to go. It would be wrong of me to say that I grasped the opportunity wholeheartedly. After all, I was not the climber in the family—the adventurer—but the one who stayed at home and looked after the children while my husband headed off. Would I have the confidence to test myself while remaining aware of my enormous responsibilities for the 11 teenagers in my care? Now, standing on the top of an Ecuadorian volcano and after three weeks away from my normal existence, I had answered those questions. At the same time, I had discovered a new dimension to my life, a new meaning and a world away from previous experiences.
Team challenge, which is organised by the World Challenge organisation, is a demanding four-week expedition to an exciting destination, which is preceded by an 18-month team-building and skills development programme. The expedition involves project work, trekking and cultural adventure, and it is one of the most powerful experiences in which a young person can hope to participate.
As I reflect on the month of July 2005, I think of the children and staff in the nursery school, playing in the playground and the classroom that we transformed into a bright and pleasant environment. I think of the joy on their faces as we
As one who had previously lived on the flat plains of existence, my mountain-top experience has given me a very different outlook on life and a realisation that simple acts of gratitude can be rewarded far beyond the relative comprehension that they deserve. They say that life begins at 40, but for me the crossroads appeared at 50, and I followed the signs to Ecuador. I could have taken the easy decision and said no, but by saying yes I overcame my fears and apprehension and gained the rewards.
"The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing that you will make one."
The second quote is from George Eliot, who said:
"It is never too late to become what you might have been."