Our Wild Swans 2013 programme is well underway, with the Swans having recently enjoyed a weekend camp at the Chatham Green Project.
As part of this year’s course, each Wild Swan will be writing blog entries to appear here on the Wilderness Foundation website and we are delighted to present the first of these.    Here, Olivia Shaw recounts her experience of Wild Swans so far.

Olivia’s Story – the Wild Swans Journey Begins

By the time I reach my desk at about 8.15 I will have already checked my texts, Twitter, Facebook, the news, the weather, my diary for the day, 2 email accounts, a couple of websites, Twitter again and usually started sending e-mails (I’m writing this on a train on the way to work).  I’m surrounded by technology, and the noise of having information fired at me continually. I love my job in local government; it pushes me to do better for others & I’m continually finding opportunities to develop as leader and as a young woman starting my career, but finding that moment of calm is tough. It’s difficult to find the head space to stop and think about whether I’m making the most of those opportunities and to consider the future. I could always do with a bit of time away from everything; to actually decide what it is that’s important to me and what sort of leader it is I’m trying to be.

I consider myself exceptionally lucky then, to have been approached to take part in the Wilderness Foundation’s Wild Swans programme this year.  We’re a group of young women with a shared purpose to develop ourselves and grow in confidence.  Out in the wilderness on our camping weekend together we were open in sharing our thoughts to those who hours ago had been strangers to us as we all talked around the fire; and stuck together as we walked through what was honestly the most pitch black woodland I’ve ever been in at nearly midnight! Being outdoors gave me that sense of space to do all that thinking, and everyone could not have been more helpful in planning activities & speakers for us, working with us and generally looking after us all with kind hearts.  I’ve learnt a lot about myself and what strengths (and weaknesses!) I have in being a leader.
I can’t write this post without mentioning, as I’m sure all the others will too – hearing Justine Laymond’s story on Friday evening. I can’t do it justice by retelling it myself, but visit http://www.justinedoublelungs.blogspot.co.uk/ or give her a follow @LamLungArtist to find out more.  Safe to say her story is shocking, sometimes distressing, genuinely moving, but most of all it is overpoweringly inspirational and uplifting.  And Justine has made me feel very guilty for never having joined that gym I keep meaning to, climb the 7 flights of stairs to my flat instead of the lift or sign up for that 10K fun run! Trust me, reading her story is well worth it.
Things to take away from the first seminar of Wild Swans 2013 then? The art of toasting a marshmallow in an infinite amount of layers on the campfire, a rediscovered love from childhood for Robinsons purple Fruit Shoots drinks, and that leadership begins with knowing and having confidence in yourself! We’ll see what seminar 2 has in store in a few weeks’ time….