RYLA 9940
43 participants from all over the district aged between 18 and 24 attended District 9940 RYLA last week.  It was held at Silverstream Retreat from 24 to 28 January and hosted by the Rotary Club of Hutt City.  
At the end of the programme the participants select one of their own that best embodies the culture and values of their RYLA experience.  This year they selected Tom Hutton as their 2018 RYLA representative. 
Below is a summary of Toms RYLA experience:
RYLA 2018 was an absolutely phenomenal experience. It feels like it might come across as overly dramatic to call it “life changing”, so I’ll settle for the more descriptive “significantly life altering”.  Through my Scouting background and through work I’d been on several residential leadership courses before RYLA. There was definitely a part of me that was expecting more of the same: an intense course, connecting with new people, and picking up a couple of small gems along the way. Now that’s not a bad thing. All the courses I’ve previously been on have added value to my life, in a small, incremental way, and RYLA started off the same.
For the first few days I was taking small steps, small takeaways. I’d learnt from previous experience that when I write long notes I’ll end up changing nothing, so instead I took notes on actionable change. My notes from an intense 12 hour first day read “Sleep, food, air. Less notifications.” Those five words from day one don’t capture the bonds that were starting to form, or the frameworks we used for the rest of the course to help understand and communicate with each other, or the slow start to the unstoppable tide pushing me to step outside my comfort zone for the first time in a long time.
Over the next days we heard from some truly inspirational speakers on a range of topics from building a positive team culture to the importance of gratitude. We took part in all manner of activities, including many peoples’ highlight: learning to support each other and make mistakes  through expression and improvisation. We grew closer as our teams, and as one big team. We supported and inspired each other, and so much of the change, while facilitated by the guest speakers, was driven by our peers: the participants and the returnees on the blue (organising) team.
Day four was where the magic happened for me. In the morning I saw how hard it was for some of my peers to step up and share their goals and their visions with everyone, and I saw them do it anyway. In the afternoon at Adrenalin Forest I saw a handful more of my peers struggle when faced with the high ropes course, and tackle it head on. Then on the bus back from high ropes it was my turn. The first time I felt seriously nervous about anything on the course was, of all things, signing up for the talent show.
It’s been a goal of mine for some time to perform one of the slam poems I’ve written. This is a goal that made me so nervous it didn’t even make the cut with the seven other SMARTER goals I set for myself in our earlier goal achieving session. Because of the amazing culture of RYLA, because of the example set by my peers in doing what is hard and stepping out of their comfort zone, because of the facilitators pushing us to do just that. I signed up, and managed to stand in front of a room full of people and despite a shake in my leg that just wouldn’t go away, I managed to perform something I had made.
Signing up for the show was the first step in a snowballing process. As the last session on day four we were treated to talks by four of the blue team, followed by a panel where we were free to ask the whole blue team questions. All the stories were powerful and the panel incredibly valuable, I have more take away points from that one session than the entire rest of the course. That’s because the blue team, having been in our position, were able to share the core things from their RYLA journey that had stuck with them over the years.
One talk in particular told an all too familiar story, of being plateaued, of having no drive to do any better, of being happy and content and leading a comfortable life without ever stepping out of the comfort zone. The second half of this story will hopefully be familiar soon, a story of saying yes to opportunities, taking on challenges, and growing.
Mine is not the only RYLA journey, I can only imagine what someone going in with no similar experiences would have got out of it. I hope, and I think, that everyone on our course had at least one “Aha” moment. There’s such a diverse range of content and ways of presenting it, that there really is a major lesson waiting for everyone. And, with such a positive and supportive culture at RYLA, when that moment comes you are in the best possible position to seize it.”
Thank you to the clubs who sponsored a participant - RYLA would not be possible without your support.
Know anyone aged between 18-24 who would benefit from the RYLA experience?  Registrations of interest for RYLA 2019 are now open. Refer to www.ryla9940.co.nz/apply-now