KPMG and Westland Row CBS have been in partnership for over ten years, working together on the student mentoring programme which provides support to senior cycle students in the school. The one-to-one mentoring programme matches volunteers and students at the start of 5th year and they meet every three to four weeks, excluding summer holidays, for the final two years of school. As part of the programme, KPMG provide two social events, one at Christmas and one in May, where all of the volunteers and mentoring students in fifth and sixth year get together to go ice-skating, orienteering, bowling or, on one occasion, to work out and spar with Olympic boxing champion, Katie Taylor in her gym in Bray, Co. Wicklow.
This year’s social event saw the whole group board a bus from Stokes Place bound for Kippure Estate in Blessington, Co. Wicklow with the prospect of a ‘Bushtucker Survival Challenge’ awaiting them. Billed as ‘Master Chef meets Survivor’, teams have to work together to cook outdoors, build shelters and fires and learn navigation skills in order to locate their challenge sites. The emphasis is on working together to complete the physically and mentally intensive tasks and in the process build their teamwork, interpersonal and communication skills and ultimately to have fun!
The mentor and student group was supplemented by Karina Howley & Geena Henebery KPMG, John Davis, Westland Row C.B.S. and Breda O’Sullivan, Business in the Community Ireland. On arrival, the group met with Ross and Damian, instructors for the day and, both serving members with the defence forces, dressed in their army fatigues. The groups self-selected a leader who then allocated roles within the team and everyone set about the tasks they were assigned to. The orientation teams got to grips with map-reading and navigating the vast Kippure Estate to find their hidden treasure chest of food that would be used to cook the meal. At various times, there were sightings of people running from one wooded area to another, shouting instructions and trying to remain inconspicuous to the opposing teams. Now and again, the victory cry of a team who had just located their spoil rang out, much to the dismay of the other teams frantically re-checking their map coordinates. Meanwhile, back at base camp, teams were hunting for the best location for their shelters, scavenging for logs and branches to build them, while also foraging for the driest wood they could find to build a fire. Provided with an implement that created a spark, it was still tricky to get the fire started and this is when the hidden skills of the former and/or still serving boy scouts and girl guides in the group came to the fore.
Ultimately all teams managed the task and were able to cook a meal to present to Ross and Damian, who would judge the efforts and crown the winning team as “Bushtucker Survival Champions”. The day finished with a delicious barbeque, provided by Kippure Estate, before the bus arrived to return everyone to the city centre and normality. It was a brilliant day, which brought out the leadership and creative thinking skills of both mentors and students and allowed them the opportunity to interact as equals. In the words of one of the students, “The social aspect really expanded my skills in communication… the activities were great especially in Kippure. That was probably my favourite. It was a fun active way to spend time with your mentor and the group”. And his final word on the overall experience of mentoring, “My mentor has had an impact in my life, I will miss him and would love to stay in contact”.