Before Your Trip
There are a number of variables that can be removed from a BCM trip through solid communication. Because the backcountry offers so many twists, it is easier to get to know your fellow leaders before you set out on the trail together. The Team Leader needs to take the initiative to start the communication through calls/e-mails to all other leaders and the youth program. These calls are get-to-know-you calls so that everyone will feel comfortable with the other adults on the trail. If all adult leaders are in the same city, face-to-face meetings and/or pre-trip activities are effective and encouraged. The Team Leader can answer a lot of the questions that new leaders have about the BCM program because of his/her experience. BCM may also help facilitate these discussions.
Some important aspects to cover include necessary gear, on- and off-trail responsibilities, and general BCM guidelines/expectations. As the team gets to know each other, the Team Leader can start to create roles for each leader based on past experience and skill sets. Who will carry the medical kits? Is one person going to be more comfortable teaching the teens how to set up tents? Is somebody especially passionate about photography? This type of basic planning and role assignment will ease the first few days of the experience and comfort the leaders because they know what is expected of them.
When everyone talks to the youth organization’s leader, s/he can explain the background that the teens are coming from and help prepare the leaders to give them the best possible experience. For volunteers living in the same geographical area as the youth program, it is important to get together with the teens before the trip. This eases some of the fears that both adults and teens have about spending such an intense period of time with complete strangers. Some of the most common introduction activities are:
Meeting with Youth
Spending some time doing an orientation session for the kids is a great opportunity to bring in slides and photos of past trips to increase enthusiasm and lessen any anxiety they may be feeling. This should be upbeat, but realistic. This also may lead some youth to decide NOT to go on the trip after hearing more about it. This is not necessarily a bad thing and should be taken into account. Make sure the teens are advised of the importance of hydration and are expected to begin drinking twice as much water as they normally do. This should begin at least three days prior to departure.
Day Hikes and Other Pre-Trip Activities
Getting together with the youth and youth organization staff before the trip to do a day hike is great practice. Day hikes are a great way to make everyone more comfortable with each other and with the idea of being on the trail together. Another effective activity is to spend a few hours together doing icebreakers and trust-building games from BCM’s Handbook.
Gaining the trust of the parents is also a very important aspect of the BCM program. An effective measure might be to hold an information meeting with parents to address any questions or concerns they may have. The goal here is to gain parental trust. If possible, also try to make a copy of your credentials available to all parents and make clear to them WHY you volunteer with BCM.
Other Pre-Trip Considerations include:
All adult team members are required to participate in training sessions. This may be online, in person or conference calls, depending on location.
All adult team members are required to read and understand the Handbook which is distributed in June.