Staff Spotlight: Jade Bielski

Tell us a little more about this program, what makes it a unique experience?

Jade Bielski Gapforce Expedition Leader Training Course Instructor

Jade: The variety: kayaking, survival, rescue training, project work, racing canoes, team management,caves, rivers, jungle. Also the level of responsibility. You get to lead and be involved in the running of the expedition from an early stage.

The duration and intensity (4 months of training) and lots of feedback to improve your leadership and expedition skills. This pushes people to their limits.

Describe a typical day on this program.

Jade: We all wake up at 6:30 a.m. We then make the fire for breakfast porridge. Everyone has porridge and shares stories from the night before: wet hammocks, animals moving about in the night, strange jungle noises! We then start training, which at the moment is river crossings and navigation.

In navigation training, the trainees practice jungle nav by doing 200m squares, cutting a trail and hopefully ending up back where they started. River training is learning to throw ropes to rescue a person from rapids, then practicing using ropes to cross fast water with a group.

In the evening we eat rice, beans, and lots of Marie Sharps chili sauce! Then we spend the evening chatting before going to bed early. It gets dark at 6pm!

What are some extra-curricular activities participants enjoy on this program?

Jade: Going to Caye Caulker - a tropical paradise! Also visiting Mayan temples, Belize zoo, maybe Guatemala and enjoying rum and Coke.

What's your favorite story from a program participant's experience on this program?

Jade: We had a project where we had to build a boardwalk out across a swamp into a lagoon (with crocs in it!). No one really knew how to do it and the weather was blazing hot. Tools were limited, conditions were really tough, lots of bugs etc.

The group were great, they worked really hard together, lots of ideas, trial and error, lots of great leadership, tough physical work, but also a really great laugh. We completed it and it actually looked pretty professional!! It was very satisfying and memorable as we spent the entire project thigh deep in a swamp!!

What is one piece of advice you would offer someone considering this program?

Jade: Prepare yourself mentally as well as physically.

What aspect of your work inspires you the most?

Jade: When we see people transform throughout the course. Some people start off very unsure, with absolutely no jungle or leadership experience and they push themselves to improve all the way through the course.

It is impressive to see the results when they become very capable and competent, not only at looking after themselves in the jungle but also being able to lead and look after others.