Some of us might remember our experiences at Outward Bound Singapore (OBS) during our younger days. We may have been uncertain about whether we liked the full extent of the OBS programme, with the back-to-back challenging tasks put forth to participants. But one thing is for sure – the programme left a mark on our memory and effectively built our character.
Interestingly, participants are not the only ones inculcated with enduring values. Instructors themselves are taught lifelong lessons through challenges that hone their resilience. OBS Instructor Siti Muzalifa is familiar with this mode of character development, having been an OBS Instructor for over a year now.
"This job does not only develop one's physical strength, but also their mental and emotional resilience. You will definitely feel fatigued from the lack of sleep especially if you run courses week after week and still have to perform at an optimum level. But the job trains us to be willing to embrace challenges that come our way, and to never back down until we achieve our goal," she tells us.
Growing with OBS
Siti remembers participating in two OBS programmes in secondary school and in Polytechnic, both of which proved to be positive experiences. After all, they did eventually influence her choice of career.
She recalls, "The OBS programmes allowed me to realise my potential and strengthen my resilience as an individual. Whenever I was faced with challenges in life, I was always reminded of my tough experiences during my OBS expeditions and how I proved to myself time and again that I could overcome them."
Today, her role allows her to pay it forward and ensure that participants receive positive OBS experiences as she did. She journeys with participants as they pack for expeditions, learn how to navigate in jungle settings, attempt high element activities and express their thoughts and reflections through journaling. During expeditions, Siti shares that she will always be in close proximity to her group to ensure their safety. And while she remains a guide never too far away, she ensures that participants have enough space to engage in experiential learning.
Elaborating on the less noticeable aspects of an OBS programme, Siti shares, "The campsite in which participants rest at night is usually surrounded by greenery and a ‘natural' toilet. I will find an opportunity in the evening to inculcate in my participants a sense of respect and appreciation for nature. Evenings are really when participants and I can spend time together to appreciate the sounds of nature and admire the star-filled sky. It is also the time of day when I facilitate discussions on how they can improve their expeditions for the following day."
Siti Muzalifa Binte Mohamed Salleh
Guided by Good Values
As part of OBS, Siti also belongs to the National Youth Council (NYC) family. NYC oversees both OBS and Youth Corps Singapore and seeks to drive youth development and broaden outreach to Singaporeans and other youth sector organisations. Siti's current career goals are in line with NYC's mission to advocate youth interests, connect the youth sector and enable holistic youth development. "I feel a great sense of achievement on the last day of the OBS programme, when my participants share that they have grown stronger after their shared OBS experience," says Siti.
All guided by similar motivations, Siti's colleagues have effectively fostered a like-minded and close-knit community within OBS. "My teammates are helpful and always ready to assist one another in any way they can. I look forward to arriving at my campsite after a full day of expedition to have dinner with my fellow instructors, while sharing our day's experiences and life stories, and passing around food that we have each cooked. It really is like having dinner with my second family every night," Siti tells us heart-warmingly.
It is important for this spirit of togetherness to remain alive within the community, especially since instructors are also caretakers of youth. Siti elaborates, "It is not uncommon for us to seek help from one another to attend to participants, especially to those with medical issues. I know I can count on my teammates to help manage my participants even in my absence."
A Purposeful Career
There is a common misconception that an OBS career is only suited for rugged males. Siti is quick to correct this perception, saying, "Both genders are treated equally and all instructors go through the same skills audit to assess operational ability. In fact, female instructors are a source of added inspiration especially to female participants in an all-girls school."
Highlighting the benefits of an OBS career, Siti sums up the interview with candour, "Every day is different with unpredictable challenges. But this is a job that will allow you to wake up each day with a purpose that you truly believe in, if you do believe in serving OBS' purpose. You will not be going through the daily cycle of dragging your feet to work and waiting for lunchtime or to go back home. If you want to make an impact to the youth in an outdoor setting, consider being an OBS instructor!"