22 Jan Quad 2015. A Year at the Hanifl Centre.
By Marta Lofesser
It has been a year of change and growth at the Hanifl Centre. 2015 kicked off with a new partnership with Aerie Backcountry Medicine, a leading provider of wilderness-medicine courses based out of Missoula, USA. Through this partnership, selected Hanifl Centre and Woodstock School staff members attended a Wilderness First Aid Instructor Course, in which they were trained and certified as Wilderness First Aid (WFA) and CPR instructors. There are only a couple of organizations in India that offer this kind of training in first aid, and most of these do not have a wilderness focus.
In its eight months as a certified partner, Hanifl Centre has run WFA and CPR courses in Mussoorie, Delhi, Nainital, Mumbai and Kashmir, and trained a total of 155 participants. Most are from the rapidly growing number of outdoor enthusiasts as well as people based or working in remote locations. Our participants have come from the Indo Tibet Border Police (ITBP), guides from the state-government owned KMVN, trekking and outdoors companies from Uttarakhand, Himalayan Outward Bound crew and our own Trek Leader Course participants.
As a mark of our recognition, the Hanifl Centre conducted a WFA CPR Course for the managers of the state-owned KMVN tourist guest houses on the Kailash to Mansarover pilgrimage route a week before the pilgrimage began. Last March, during the Outdoor Learning Weekend, 20 students obtained Wilderness First Aid certification, and over the course of the year, more than 30 Woodstock School staff have followed. This results in a safer campus, as well as more awareness and safer outings.
Hanifl Centre´s pilot Wilderness Education Course at Woodstock School has been introduced in the 2015-2016 academic year. The course includes theoretical and practical knowledge of wilderness first aid, moving water kayaking, rock climbing and wilderness backpacking. Through technical outdoor skill acquisition, students will be challenged by these outdoor environments, while the art of journeying in wilderness safely will be crosscutting, earning them lower-division university credit.
For the third year in a row, Hanifl Centre’s flagship programme, Pitt in the Himalayas, is being offered. This year, 13 students from the University of Pittsburgh, Syracuse University, along with students from Yale-NUS College of Singapore are spending a semester in the Himalayas, based at the Hanifl Centre. During this period they are able to earn 15 credits through different college courses that cover a range of disciplines, including Environmental Study in the Himalaya, Himalayan Religions, Mountains and Music, Cultural Immersion, and Hindi Language Study. During the months of September-December, the Hanifl Centre becomes a University campus with expert faculty and undergraduate students, who interact and actively participate with the larger Woodstock School community.
Hanifl’s mission is to contribute to develop responsible citizens by exploring and celebrating the Himalayan environment through physical activity, art, literature, environmental ethics and leadership training. It continues to be a centre of reference for schools from India: institutions including Mira Model School Delhi, D Y Patil International School Mumbai, Fazlani L’Académie Globale Mumbai stay with us year after year to carry out the mandatory core component of the IB Diploma Programme, the CAS (Creativity, Action, Service). Boston College comes every summer for a 3-week course titled “Writing out of Place – The Himalayas” and the Latin School of Chicago comes during their spring break for an exposure to the Himalayan environment.
The Hanifl Centre´s Diploma in Outdoor and Environmental Education (Trek Leader Course) programme continues to train youth from Uttarakhand and neighboring states to value their environment and take a more eco-friendly and professional approach to their livelihoods. 20 students graduated this year. A total of five former graduates were sponsored to attend this year´s Mussoorie Writers Mountain Festival to benefit from the exposure and networking the festival offers.
In collaboration with The Himalayan Club, the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour came to Woodstock School, as part of the Mussoorie Writers Mountain Festival. This is the first time ever this internationally acclaimed top mountain film festival visited Mussoorie.
The visits of research lepidopterist Peter Smetacek and the eagerness of our new Outdoor Environmental Educator Swati Sidhu have brought a number of classes outdoors with students going to Jabarkhet Nature Reserve or the Burgoyne campground regularly.
Hanifl Centre gives support to Woodstock School treks, micro expeditions and climbing trips during weekends and extended periods, including the first canyoneering trip to the Aglar River last April with Grade 9 students.