Our first Paddlesport Leader Assessments have taken place outside of the UK in Rwanda! Read all about it from Darren Sherwood, British Canoeing Paddlesport Leader National Trainer & Channel Training Director.
When the opportunity to visit a country, I’d heard of but never really thought about before arose, I just had to take it as anyone would. From the first initial conversations with Steve Venton, Kingfisher Journey’s owner and director, to flying out of London on a very cold, wet December morning was only about three weeks. If I'm honest, I was initially a little sceptical - was this really going to happen? However, after a virtual meeting with Steve, I was all in - his enthusiasm and passion for his company and the people that made it was exciting and inspirational.
Kingfisher Journeys has been about for nearly three years based solely in Rwanda, run by Steve, a very experienced paddler from the UK that has, up to now carried out all of the guides training. As the business has grown and Steve is getting more bookings from schools, colleges and other organisations, the requirement for a more formal recognition of competence was needed. This time last year there wasn't an appropriate leadership qualification for the guides to be involved in, but as of from April 2017 with the launch of the Paddlesport Leader Award, there was now a qualification tailor made for sheltered water, something Rwanda has lots of!
Steve had already trained the guides; Eloi, Sandrine, Gratian and Francois to a high standard in both canoe and kayak, in terms of leadership, safety and incident management - so consequently went direct to assessment. The assessment venues were ideal - the Mukungwa River, a slow-moving meandering river through the beautiful Rwandan countryside and Lake Kivu, one of the African Great Lakes approximately 90km bisected by Democratic Republic of Congo’s border. Both venues offered opportunities for the guides to demonstrate their skills and abilities with the groups we had organised for the assessment, in a very real context.
The two-day assessment saw the guides leading a group of local Rwandans - this was great on so many different levels; it allowed the guides to use their native language, it also meant that local Rwandans got to experience paddlesport - something that just isn't common place, with one of the participants at the end of the day speaking about wanting to become a guide. There was also someone who has never been on a Paddleboard before in Force 2/3, making the assessment very genuine, in a group of canoes and sea kayaks really does put the guides decision making and client care to the test in a very real context. On the second day of the assessment we had a group of expats from Australia, America and the UK which in itself poses a variety of new challenges, not least the language barrier, all the guides speak great English, but it's tough when you’re under a bit of pressure to sometimes get out exactly what you mean. We had a great day on the river, the whole team had clearly put a lot of effort into their assessment preparation. The groups and myself really enjoyed learning about the local bird life, plants and traditional farming and fishing techniques that were evident throughout the trip.
Happily, three of Kingfishers four main guides successfully passed their assessment and will go on to lead groups from all over the world on Lake Kivu, the Mukungwa River and potentially some exciting new locations in the near future.
A fantastic achievement for everyone involved and I feel very privileged to have been involved in the guides journey.
If you’re interested in becoming a Paddlesport Leader, find our more about the award on our Leadership section. With direct entry to assessment, check whether you have the skills and book your assessment! Alternatively, there are a range of training options available.