Outward Bound Canada

Outward Bound Canada (OBC) is a not-for-profit, charitable, educational organization that cultivates resilience, leadership, connections and compassion through inspiring and challenging journeys of self-discovery in the natural world. An OBC experience becomes a model for a lifetime of achievement and leadership. Founded in 1969, OBC programs support people from all walks of life to overcome personal barriers and limitations, to discover their own strengths and develop their true potential. Over the past 45 years OBC has graduated more than 150,000 alumni through its courses. Our life-changing programs include our national charity programs such as the Urban Youth 'Journeys of Discovery’ Program for underserved, at-risk, and newcomer youth, the Aboriginal Youth Program, the Women of Courage Program for women who have suffered abuse and violence, and the Veterans’ Program. OBC’s programs can have a profound impact on the lives of our course participants as they undergo significant life transitions.

OBC instructor and urban youth in climbing helmets, giving a thumbs-up in front of the climbing wall.Our Impact Why We Exist

Outward Bound Canada - a not-for-profit, charitable, educational organization, with both urban-based and wilderness programs - has been running life-changing programs across Canada for almost 45 years. While almost anyone can take an Outward Bound experience, our programs are most impactful for those who are experiencing transition in their lives (i.e. youth transitioning from dependence to independence within the city, Aboriginal or new Canadian youth transitioning between cultures and finding their own identity in the mosaic of Toronto, young adults struggling with transitions into the senior grades of high school and unsure of their future, to name just a few).

In response, Outward Bound Canada has developed specialized, funded programs for populations who are living with significant challenges in their lives, or who have experienced trauma or crisis - including urban (and wilderness) programs for Youth at Risk, Aboriginal youth and new Canadian youth within Toronto, veterans, and women who have suffered from abuse or violence. These programs provide the participants with the appropriate challenges and supports to build resilience, increasing their capacity to transition from a "place of crisis" to a "position of strength."

Acknowledging the life-changing impact these programs have had on individual participants, Outward Bound Canada hopes to increase access to our programs for our charitable programs throughout the GTA (and the country!). 

A group of youth at risk looking back on the Toronto cityscape from their campsite on Toronto Island.Our Story What We Do

History of Organization

Outward Bound Canada (OBC) is a not for profit, charitable, educational organization, operating in Canada since 1969 and is part of an international network, established in 1941. OBC has developed specialised funded programs for populations who have reduced opportunity to experience success, are living with significant challenge in their lives or have experienced trauma or crisis.

OBC moved its national office to Toronto in 2010, to be more accessible to those who can benefit most from our programs. Our urban base enables us to open our doors to a more diverse population, becoming the focal point for building enduring relationships and partnerships with schools, community organizations, other not for profits, students, supporters, alumni and volunteers.

Accolades and Accomplishments

Outward Bound is the oldest and largest outdoor experiential education organization in the world, operating for 70 years around the globe and for more than 45 years in Canada. Outward Bound’s influence on the field of outdoor and experiential education, in terms of innovation, curriculum development, risk management, staff training and research, has been hugely significant.

Today Outward Bound operates in 34 countries, serving over 200,000 participants every year from urban programs that seek to help youth-at-risk to family programs that seek to improve familial communication. Since 1969, over 150,000 Canadians of diverse ages and various backgrounds have taken part in Outward Bound programs across the country.

OBC is an accredited high school in Ontario, and is able to offer youth who complete programs that are 14 days or longer a variety of high school credits in both an urban and wilderness setting. Our program is also accredited in British Columbia through the External Credit program. OBC’s innovative high school semester program, “Outward Bound Canada College”, won the Innovation Award from Outward Bound International in 2002.

The successes of the last four years have been recently recognized by the Ontario Trillium Foundation, which awarded OBC with a three-year grant that enables us to expand our Urban Youth Program to other urban areas outside the GTA such as Hamilton and Burlington.

A young Outward Bound Canada student smiling in front of a piece of drift wood.Our Programs How We Do It

OBC works with over 2,500 youth and adult participants each year out of our “urban base camp” in Toronto at the Evergreen Brick Works, provides many urban programs in Vancouver and offers national wilderness programs throughout Canada.  There is more in you than you think. This simple idea forms the basis of Outward Bound’s philosophy and provides the guiding principle for all Outward Bound experiences. Each Outward Bound course is much more than just learning the technical skills of canoeing, rock climbing, kayaking, backpacking and dogsledding. It's designed to be a profound personal journey. 60% of our participants receive full funding to attend Outward Bound Canada programs. We also provide scholarships and bursaries for youth and adults to attend our longer wilderness expeditions.

Core funded programs include:

  • Women of Courage Program – wilderness program for survivors of violence or abuse
  • Veterans Program – wilderness expeditions to support military service men and women who are transitioning back to civilian life
  • Youth “Asset-Building” programs in both urban and wilderness settings, designed specifically for: Aboriginal and Newcomer youth caught between cultures, dealing with challenges to their self-identity and sense of belonging
  • Low-Income, under-resourced and at-risk youth experiencing barriers to opportunity and achievement due to significant socio-economic challenges

Today we partner with universities, high schools and learning institutes across Canada. We work with government agencies and grass roots community builders to provide a wide range of services that enhance capacity and leadership. 

We are proud to be an organization that has consistently been at the forefront of educational and social innovation. Our mission speaks to our aspirations and our actions tell a 45 year story of dedication to expanding that essential idea –  There is more in you than you think.

Journeys of Discovery – Urban Adventure Program

From September 2014 to September 2015, OBC delivered one day and multi-day programs for moe than 2000 youth from ages 10 to 18 at our urban base camp at the Evergreen Brick Works. Under-served and newcomer youth from across the GTA from priority neighbourhoods such as Scarborough Village, Lawrence Heights, Dorset Park, and Victoria Park Village; from schools identified by the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) as high-needs on the Learning Opportunities Index (LOI); and from community agencies such as Moorelands and WoodGreen Community Services, took part in these programs.

Relying on research and programs conducted and implemented by highly successful urban Outward Bound Centres in the USA, we have developed an urban program model that is based on “building out” concentric circles of experience.

The intent of this model is to develop longer term, more sustainable relationships with schools and organizations, as opposed to isolated, singular experiences which are common in traditional outdoor programming. 

Outward Bound’s core programmatic pillars are: physical fitness, self-reliance, craftsmanship/mastery, and compassion through service. These pillars are integrated into this urban program model.  We have started implementing the model with several of our partner schools in Toronto. In stage one at the base of the pyramid, we deliver in-school experiences to a cross section of the urban school population. As needs are further defined and the relationship is further developed, we introduce the next stages of the model that include off-site experiences at our urban facility or  “expedition style” throughout the city, or both. The goal is to encourage many of the youth to participate in our longer-term, summer leadership programs. Participation in these programs can be achieved through our scholarship and bursary program.

In the next 2-5 years, we will be extending the urban program model to include other urban centres outside of the GTA impacting more youth, more communities and Canadian society overall. 

Funding and Program Partners

Outward Bound Canada has partnerships with a number of schools and organizations in the GTA including:

1) Bendale Technical Institute (TDSB) - multi-day programs for boys and girls from multiple grades as well as faculty professional development;

2) St. Joseph Secondary School (Dufferin-Peel CDSB) - Alternative Cooperative Experiential (ACE) program providing urban leadership experiences as follow up from wilderness hiking program;

3) The Walter Perry Middle School (TDSB)

4) Sir Wilfred Laurier Collegiate Institute (TDSB)

5) Queen Victoria Elementary School (TDSB) through Youth to Youth program

6) Firgrove Elementary School (TDSB) through Youth to Youth program

7) Pathways to Education – Regent Park

8) Moorelands Community Services

9) WoodGreen Community Services

Our funders, many of them long-term, include the Ontario Trillium Foundation, the Royal Bank of Canada Foundation, The Molson Foundation, Toronto Star’s “Fresh Air Fund” , Mountain Co-Op Equipment (MEC), The North Face “Explore Fund”, TELUS, to name a few.

We will continue to build upon and expand our relationships with: the City of Toronto, the Toronto Regional Conservation Authority, Pathways to Education, Toronto Public Library, Toronto District School Board – Supervised Alternative Learning (SAL) program, the Urban Priority High Schools Initiative (UPHS), the Toronto Catholic District School Board, The Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board, Right to Play and Evergreen.

Program Impact

For 45 years, evidence of the impact of OBC’s programs has been documented and measured quantitatively and qualitatively by researchers. OBC curriculum and methodology have had a positive effect on many variables, including academic performance affecting graduation rates, coping and inter-personal skills, community involvement and self-confidence.  

Toronto's Vital Signs® indicator(s) addressed by Program

“Education is broader than numeracy and literacy — it is about acquiring a set of tools that allow us to bounce back from crisis. Without skills, the cycles of poverty and isolation cannot be overcome.”

 -Shelina Karmali, Executive Director, (PEACH) Promoting Education and Community Health, (Toronto’s Vital Signs®, 2011)

Outward Bound began delivering youth resiliency programs in 1941 as an alternative to traditional schooling methods. Today, the need for educational programs that build young people’s capacity to deal with challenge and adversity is even more pressing. Our urban adventure program model builds on our history of delivering high impact resiliency-building programs in the wilderness, providing opportunity and access to urban youth for whom the “opportunity gap” is greatest.

Participant Vignette

"No one has ever helped me like that before." Catherine, a 17-year-old student from Chile, came to Canada with her family in 2007 after they were forced to escape corruption, persecution and attacks, often at the hands of local authorities. Catherine experienced additional challenges since settling in Toronto. Over the first two years, Catherine's mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer, forcing Catherine to miss a lot of school. And, recently, Catherine's father and a brother. The insurance company refuses to compensate, declaring the event suspicious of "foul play".

The urban programming at Outward Bound offers the most challenged students like Catherine a healthy opportunity to experience a different reality, even for several hours, enhancing self-esteem, team-building and empowerment. OB gives students a sense of belonging that helps teachers rebuild the trust and faith many students have lost along the way.

Upon returning from her OBC program at the Brick Works, Catherine said, (referring to climbing the OBC Challenge Tower) "I can't believe I did it! I was ready to quit after a few feet up, and then the OBC instructor really helped me get all the way to the top of the 70-foot tower. No one has ever helped me like that before!"

Her story was shared by her teacher, following Catherine's OBC wilderness and urban program experience.

One OBC Urban participant helping another young participant to climb up our Challenge Tower.What You Can Do

Journeys of Discovery – Urban Adventure Program

Activities a donation will support

In just over four years of running urban programs, we’ve impacted close to 5,000 inner-city youth. This rapid growth is primarily due to our reputation in Canada for delivering highly-impactful outdoor experiential programs. It’s also due to the desperate need, identified in the Vital Signs Report®, to address the “opportunity gap” that exists in Toronto between those with access to capacity-building opportunities, like OB, and those who don’t.  We know there’s a need and we know we have the expertise to meet it.

There is great interest in our Urban Adventure program from schools, community agencies and educators. What’s lacking are the funds to meet that need. Investment in activities to help us “tell the story” will enable OBC to continue to gain a foothold in Canada’s largest urban centre.  We only need to look to the USA, and our US partner schools to see the model’s potential. Since 2002, OB USA opened eight new urban centres, increasing their reach to inner-city youth and communities with the most to benefit from our resiliency-building programs. 

Donation impact

Individuals have supported Outward Bound through educational initiatives, either sponsoring a group of students from one school or, sponsoring 1-2 Grade 10 students who most exemplify, "self-reliance, care and respect for others, service to the community, and concern for the environment” - A full scholarship for our 21-day Leadership Course is valued at $5,000/student, plus travel.

With an investment of $15,000, Outward Bound Canada is able to more effectively document, promote, and communicate to our stakeholders, partners and colleagues the necessity and impact of the Journeys of Discovery - Urban Adventure program - laying the groundwork for the expansion of the program to other schools and organizations in 2013, with the goal of doubling the number of students participating from 2,500 to 5,000, and doubling the number of schools and community organizations involved.

We are happy to discuss ways to contribute to make a significant difference in the lives of people, especially the young, who live in your community.


Nanette Sanson
Development Manager - Foundations and Corporations
888.688.9273 x203
Charitable Number: 892511692RR0001

Finance & Governance


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