Challenge by choice

Our Stories

“If children feel safe, they can take risks, ask questions, make mistakes, learn to trust, share their feelings and grow.”

Alfie Kohn

The notion of “challenge by choice” is an important part of what we do on Cottage programs. With encouragement and kindness, when a person makes the decision to do something – without being forced – they stand to benefit the most. And although this benefit often means the completion of an activity or a program, it doesn’t always. At Cottage by the Sea, a sense of achievement comes from many different outcomes, which can unlock an entirely different trajectory for a child.

Be Kind to Humankind Week is held in the last week of August each year, and offers an opportunity for people to celebrate kindness, generosity, service and forgiveness to each other. It also acts as an important reminder that offering support to one another is a direct way to help human beings thrive. All Cottage staff are dedicated to ensuring that our program participants’ experiences are filled with inspiration, fun and opportunity. During a recent Mentor trip to Sydney, our CEO Adam saw first-hand the benefits on the young people.

Many of the young adults on this program had never been on a plane or stayed in a hotel. An important part of this offsite experience involved climbing the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge and from the get-go and even months prior, one participant was adamant that she wouldn’t participate in the climb. A key element of the Mentor program is the therapeutic nature of embarking on adventures, and participants are supported throughout their experience to develop the confidence, resilience and skills they need to thrive in their teenage years. In the context of the bridge climb, this philosophy was put into practice by everyone sharing their experiences as a group on how they’ve overcome past challenges. This circle time reminded everyone of the importance of support from our friends and family, and that working through difficulties is part and parcel of being human.

At the lobby, in preparation for the climb, everyone shared their thoughts and feelings in anticipation for the climb, which provided the opportunity to offer support to each other. This was the turning point for the young Mentor, and she decided to listen to the briefing and put on the suit. A short time after, she was clipped into the rail and climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The experience tested her to her limits, but once she moved through her nerves, she was able to enjoy the climb and view it as an adventure. At the summit, she asked for a video and yelled at the top of her lungs, “I did it! I love you, Mum!” When this Mentor reflected on her experience later that night in circle time, she expressed that she was so proud of herself. I think we can agree that she deserved that.

For Adam, seeing this and “feeling” this transformation has helped him to reconnect with his passion on why he works in this meaningful sector. It also reminded him of the power of adventure therapy and “challenge by choice”, as well as the value of being kind. Cottage programs are designed to give participants the opportunity to grow by providing a safe and supportive environment for them to take conscious steps towards facing their fears. When they do this challenging yet worthwhile work, their lives transform.