Levin solo mum Jessica Henry said she was prepared, but found that even the fittest person still struggles at Outward Bound.

Despite that, and the fact she had hurt her foot before leaving for Outward Bound, nothing could hold her back and the experience proved life changing for her.

"I am a new person and made friends for life with my team mates."

As a graduate of Waiopehu College's Teen parent Unit He Whare Manaaki Tangata, she won a scholarship to the 21-day course in 2018 as part of an award she won while at the unit, the Mate a One outward Bound Scholarship.

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"Outward Bound cleared my head space. Before I went I wasn't sure who I was anymore. I did not know where to go and couldn't see what would be best for me and my boy. I thought I had locked away all the bad stuff, but Outward Bound not only brought it up again. It also helped me deal with it.

Jessica Henry said Outward Bound changed her life.
Jessica Henry said Outward Bound changed her life.

"You have to open up to your team and identify three stages of your life to them and draw those in the sand. For me stage one was my son and his dad. Stage two was that the relationship didn't work anymore and I returned home from Australia. Then I was assaulted. Stage three for me was slowly working on myself. My son saved me from going the wrong way."

A lot has changed since those three weeks at Outward Bound.

"I used to smoke and drink a bit before Outward Bound, and neither is allowed there. Though it was very hard to do but Outward Bound was much better than counselling. I am reborn as a person.

"They test your boundaries at Outward Bound constantly," she said. She had taken much of the year to get fit and purposely picked a course late in the year in an attempt to be as ready as possible.

"We did kayaking, co-steering, rock climbing, sailing, tramping, high rope and spent three nights alone in the bush."

Jessica and her crew out sailing during her Outward Bound course in Novermber 2019.
Jessica and her crew out sailing during her Outward Bound course in Novermber 2019.

"You have to dig deep within yourself while you are there," she said. "They kept saying 'mā te wā', and 'there is more in you', 'keep trying'.

A month before her trip to Outward bound she hurt her foot, an injury that plagued her throughout her course.

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"I wasn't sure I could do Outward Bound." After the pōwhiri participants were divided in seven groups and Jess said her group Cobham Watch 659 clicked straightaway.

"I made friends for life with this team. They helped me heaps."

Life started early at Outward Bound, 6am each morning with a 3.2km run.

"We had to do that the first day within 27 minutes and despite my hurt foot I managed to so it in 28 minutes." After that it was kayaking in the sea practising rollover and dismounting.

"More than once organisers suggested I'd stop because of my hurt foot, including on that first day. The next day I did the run in 24 minutes. I was overwhelmed."

She said while at Outward Bound you have two pairs of shoes: wet ones and dry ones. "We pretty much lived in our wet shoes. There is no down time for yourself during those 21 days. It is go-go-go all the time."

Out on the water. Outward Bound November 2019.
Out on the water. Outward Bound November 2019.

Her next challenge came in enormous blisters during tramping, a reason for her to be sent back to camp.

"I really felt I let down my team," she said. In response she did lots of chores to make up for that and give her team, who were also on kitchen duty that day, a bit of a break.

"I cleaned toilets, raked the driveway, set up kitchen and dining room, so everything was ready upon their return."

That driveway is a story in itself.

"It has to be raked every day and that day, on my own, it took me between three and four hours to do. My team appreciated it because it meant they could go to bed at 8pm instead of the normal 11pm after a hard day.

"Before Outward Bound I didn't know what to do. I had studied a bit of agriculture but now I know what I want to do." She will soon take up psychology and counselling and also intends to keeps fit. She plans to run a half marathon in April during the Great Forest event in Waitarere Beach.

"I didn't finish the Outward Bound Marathon. I got to the 14km mark but the satisfying bit there was I was able to help someone else reach the 8km point.

"I feel more content now and happy. I am no longer weighed down by the bad from the past.

"My auntie said she saw a huge change in me immediately. She built a strong bond with my son as he stayed with her throughout my stay at Outward Bound. My son is also much happier and has a better routine. We do a lot more things together now. I love being a mum."