Visit from the Prime Minister

A surprise visit from the Prime Minister

The Prime Minister David Cameron popped in to see one of our programmes on Wednesday. The group were from Warwickshire and based up at the Howtown, Outward Bound Trust centre.

Team Edwards had just got back from their overnight expedition when they were told of who their surprise visitor was going to be.

The team had cleared away their camping kit; unpacked rucksacks and hung sleeping bags out to dry. They were waiting in anticipation of the VIP guest. “What’s he going to be like?” “Will he really help us?” “Is he tall?” All these questions were answered when the head security man received a radio call. “2 minutes!” He called over; the young people gathered together and then up the drive rolled the big Range Rovers and Prime Minister’s Jag.

He got out, grasped his hands together, looked at the young people, smiled and said “right then we’re going to build a raft are we?”. He then greeted all of the team and started chatting to them, instantly putting them at ease.

After introductions and meeting some of the Challenge staff, he was shown inside. The group then sat around a table with the PM and local MP, Rory Stewart, and discussed The Challenge.

The Prime Minister was keen to find out why the young people had signed up for the programme and what they were looking forwards to and was listening to ideas that could make it more appealing to more 16-year-olds.

After 10 minutes of chatting, some of the group showed the Prime Minister a model of the raft they were all planning to build and then everyone went off and got changed ready for the water. Once the group were changed everyone went and got their helmets and buoyancy aids for the raft. Once they had these they all set off with their newest group member (the PM) down to the lake edge.

After a quick briefing by the Outward Bound instructor Martin, the PM helped the group gather the wooden poles, plastic barrels and rope together to build the raft. They all then set about tying knots together and working out solutions to the problems that they faced in building the raft.

Once the frame of the raft had been made, then the barrels were added. The PM was seen at one point picking a barrel up and bringing it over to the group on his own. He was definitely helping out and getting stuck in. It was clear to see that the group were enjoying his company and he too was enjoying theirs.

Once the raft had been built the group all sat on it and had a few practice strokes on dry land. During this point the PM spoke to some of the Challenge staff about his passion for the programme and his plans for continued support of it.

The group had now finished going through the dry run of what to do and the PM said it was time to see them set sail. With that, the group all picked up their raft and carried it to a small beach on the lake side.

Once it was on the water the group got on board and the Prime Minister slowly pushed the raft off on its way. It was tough to push and by now a small crowd had gathered to watch him help the group set off. As he waded out into the lake people started recording the moment on their phones, secretly hoping they might catch a clip of the PM falling over in the lake. Luckily he didn’t fall and as the group set off a mighty cheer and applause could be heard from the bank side.

The group set off on their journey of the lake and the PM watched on. He then addressed some of the people who had gathered at the shore line and told them that he was there to see the young people on The Challenge. An eight year old boy had drawn a picture of him and the PM dutifully signed it for him before returning up to the Outward Bound centre to get changed.

Just before he left, one of the founders of The Challenge, Jon Yates, gave the Prime Minister a letter from one of the London groups asking him to attend an event they were planning to run as part of the Real Challenge Action. The Prime Minister thanked Jon for the letter, said goodbye to everyone and then the Jag and Range Rovers all pulled away.

Rory Stewart MP stayed a little longer and spoke to both Outward Bound staff and Challenge staff about the programme. He offered to help out however he could. He then left the centre to go on to other engagements.

The group who had built the raft with the PM had now returned to the shoreline to be greeted by a news crew eager to talk to them about their newest team member, Dave. There was a happy mood whilst a couple of young people spoke to the news crew and the rest of the team jumped of a jetty and played around in the water.

The news crew packed up and it was time for Team Edwards to go and get changed and ready for dinner. Talking to the young people you could see that they really enjoyed the experience and that a lot of preconceptions had been shattered.
A great afternoon and a memorable experience for all.

This entry was posted on Friday, August 19th, 2011 at 1:38 pm and is filed under Challenge news. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

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