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July 23 2014.

Marianne Best reports:

This year the three candidates chosen by the Rotary Club of Seaford for the Rotary Youth Leadership Award course, (RYLA), held at High Ashurst Outdoor Activity Centre in Dorking, were, (left to right in photo above), Marianne Best, Florence Hardy and Ella Edwards.

The girls were chosen for their contribution to our community. Marianne Best has been a radio presenter at Seahaven FM for four years and presents her Evening show from 5.00pm to 7.00pm every Sunday.

Florence Hardy was part of the Girl Guides and recently went on a trip to Peru, sponsored by The Seaford Rotary Club, to help disabled children there.

Ella Edwards has been volunteering at Seaford Lifeguards for four years and helps organise events as well as regularly lifeguarding our local beaches.

Before going on the RYLA course in April we were all quite nervous, but had high expectations of what our week would entail, such as developing good leadership skills that are crucial for later life, gaining exposure to challenging new sports such as Kayaking and Rock Climbing and also being able to tactfully solve problems.

We each took a self-evaluation called ‘Belbin’ that would be used when we arrived at High Ashurst to split us into appropriate teams according to our different strengths. Although the three of us were put into different teams, we shared a room and enjoyed sharing stories of the day’s activities with each other in the evening.

The week’s daytime activities consisted of a low-rope and high-rope course, raft-building and race, kayaking, canoeing, rock climbing, abseiling and the highlight at the end being a day of orienteering followed by a 10km hike. During our hike each team navigated their way up Box Hill, climbing 398 steps exactly, it was a challenge because we were left to our own devices and had to rely on each other in our teams to find our way back safely. Unfortunately on the hike Florence’s team got lost and managed to reach the same place three times, making it a 13km hike instead!

One of the hardest group challenges was the raft-building at Thames Young Mariners. We had to plan and then build a raft using ropes and barrels. The aim was to stay afloat whilst paddling a timed lap of a marked-out course. Marianne’s team didn’t quite get the hang of it as upon entering the lake, the raft capsized and there were rope and barrels floating in all directions!

The evening activities were a great way to socialise with all the RYLA candidates. There was a quiz, disco and also a trip to the London Palladium to see a show which was a well-kept secret until we got to the theatre. It turned out to be Harry Hill’s ‘I Can’t Sing’ – a funny take on ‘The X Factor’ – we all enjoyed the show and the evening dinner party that occurred beforehand at High Ashurst.

The finale of the fantastic week was the Gala Dinner; an evening with canapés, group presentations, awards, lots of photos and almost as many tears too! The whole evening was left down to us, which was a real challenge as it wasn’t just within our teams we were working, it was all the RYLA candidates. Although the initial planning of the evening did get very noisy - with lots of ideas being said all at once - we delegated suitable roles to everyone and, in the short time of five hours we had to organise a whole evening, everything went according to plan and was thoroughly enjoyed by all.

There is no doubt that it was a full-on week, with stressful and challenging activities, but we all agree that it helped us grow and equipped us with vital team skills, not only for a career in later life, but for everyday life too. For me personally, I have never pushed myself quite as much as I did during this week and it was quite extraordinary in doing so how much I got back from this experience.

Above all our confidence grew tremendously whilst on this trip and it really is such a worthwhile experience. We’ve made many friends and have been keeping in touch – already we have had a couple of ‘RYLA reunions’!

Without the sponsorship of the Rotary Club of Seaford and the help from Peter Posgate and Ray Richardson, we couldn’t have gone on RYLA and are all incredibly grateful to them – we cannot thank you enough!