THE ROLE AND VALUE OF RISK
Kieve Wavus Education has always been and will continue to be committed to the health, well-being, and personal growth of participants and staff in all KWE programs. KWE acknowledges, understands, and respects the inherent risks associated with our programming, including ropes courses, climbing walls, wilderness tripping and the many activities that are a part of our KWE programs. Risk management is a priority at KWE and we work diligently to identify, assess and manage these risks.
Risk and uncertainty, both perceived and real, are central to our experiential educational philosophy. We do not seek risk for the sake of risk, but rather it is our belief that when we embrace adversity and take positive, intentional and well managed risks in the face of significant, real-time challenges and in appropriate environments, we grow as individuals and as a community.
STAFF AND EDUCATOR TRAINING
KWE recruits much of our team from within, in many cases having known them since they were participants themselves. The new members who join us are largely recruited from nationally recognized college Outing Club and Outdoor or Experiential Education and Leadership Programs. Our training and orientation session is one of the longest and most extensive in our industry, including a wide range of topics covering every aspect of our programs, partnering with organizations that often set the standard for safety and professionalism in their industry to deliver some of these topics. We also support the professional development of our staff through guest speakers, participation in conferences and workshops, and training both to enhance existing skills and to acquire new skills.
KWE completes thorough reference, driving record, and background checks on all staff, going above and beyond the minimum requirements by employing the highest level of background checks possible. Additionally, staff involved in our Leadership School program are required by the Department of Education to be fingerprinted as a part of their background check process.
CAMPUSES AND FACILITIES
All of our summer camp trips are comprehensively planned for skill development as well as fun and adventure, and of course an appropriate amount of carefully managed risk. At times, Kieve and Wavus campers journey in wilderness settings that are often hours from advanced medical care. We spend time on unpredictable, fast-flowing rivers and pass through temperamental mountain ranges. In order to manage potential hazards associated with our programming, KWE employs an experienced staff including Wilderness First Responders, Registered Maine Guides, American Canoe Association Instructors and Swiftwater Rescue specialists.
The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife regulates the standards for Youth Camp Trip Leaders, but KWE goes above and beyond with leaders who exceed those standards for training and experience. Where appropriate, KWE carefully contracts local, third-party guides who offer advanced instruction, training in specific trip activities, and thorough knowledge of the environments through which our participants travel. We also contract NOLS, the industry leader in youth wilderness tripping, to perform regular risk audits assessing our practices and ensuring that we continue to adapt our program so that it exceeds industry standards.
Before any cabin group departs on a trip, they receive an extensive briefing with one of our Trip Directors or Assistants, reviewing daily routes, areas of interest, and emergency plans. Campers are able to ask questions, share concerns, and prepare themselves for their wilderness trip.
Prior to the beginning of any program, KWE’s Healthcare and Risk Director briefs the appropriate staff on any needs and requirements of the participants, including pertinent health histories, allergies, dietary restrictions, and any other participant needs of which we have been made aware. All direct service employees are trained in First Aid and CPR, most to the level of Wilderness Advanced First Aid or higher. KWE provides fully stocked first aid kits to our summer camp staff and has additional kits available at various locations around our campuses. During the summer camp season, our Infirmaries are staffed 24/7 by an Infirmary Director and Assistant Director who stay in constant contact with our Healthcare and Risk Director who is a Board Certified Family Nurse Practitioner. Our Standing Orders for care are reviewed and approved annually by our consulting physician.
EMOTIONAL HEALTH AND WELL-BEING
In addition to their physical health and well-being, KWE is committed to the emotional health and well-being of all of our participants and staff. Positive, healthy relationships between staff and participants are formed and maintained by a firm belief in the power of mentoring and a commitment to the values of kindness and respect. Our staff constantly works one-on-one with each participant to make sure they feel supported, cared for and capable of taking on whatever challenges lie ahead.
KWE youth participants interact with multiple staff members on a regular basis, affording them multiple opportunities to connect with caring, supportive, and accessible adults to whom they can turn for help in challenging situations. It is our expectation everyone is treated with kindness and respect and our staff and directors keep their eyes and ears open and quickly address any signs of deviation from this standard, either physical or emotional. In the event that a youth participant discloses information that causes a staff member to suspect past or likely abuse or neglect, KWE staff and educators are trained Mandated Reporters and under Maine State Law and required to file a report with the Department of Health and Human Services.
Gone are the days of heading off into the woods without the ability to contact the outside world until you return to civilization several days or even weeks later. Utilizing a satellite based text message system, our Trip Leaders are in two-way communication with us daily including their status and location, any questions that may need to be addressed, and of course for any emergency needs. While it still may be several hours before we can physically reach a trip in the field, these devices put them in communication with us and with any emergency needs within a matter of minutes. In addition to this system, we also have a regularly scheduled face to face meeting with each group in the field typically every 5-7 days for a resupply of food and supplies.
On site, we use various technologies to communicate quickly and efficiently across campus in the case of an emergency. At all times during programming each campus has Directors accessible through our office phone or through their personal cell phones. We are set-up to respond to emergencies 24/7.
RISK ASSESSMENT AND MANAGEMENT TEAM
To ensure our continued track record of effectively assessing and managing risk and offering the highest quality programming and experiences possible, KWE’s programmatic directors, led by the Healthcare and Risk Director, meet regularly to review and improve organizational policies and protocols in response to incidents and near-misses as well as participant and staff feedback. Members of this team, and the Healthcare and Risk Director in particular, maintain an ongoing dialogue about risk assessment and management with industry leaders in the field of adventure based education, including annual participation in the NOLS Wilderness Risk Management Conference (WRMC), the Association for Experiential Education (AEE) Conference, the High 5 Adventure Practitioners’ Symposium, the Maine Summer Camps (MSC) gatherings, and our Consortium of non-profit summer camps.