A story by Volunteering Hebrides
We gave a group of cared for people and carers a break away from their remote island surroundings, enjoying four days of sight-seeing, shopping, activities and relaxing in Glasgow. Carers who did not attend were able to take a break independently while the person they care for was with us.
What Befriending Away did
We took a group of cared for people/carers away for a 3-night break in Glasgow in August, enabling them to have a relaxing holiday and access facilities and attractions which are unavailable in our remote island community. Participants were able to choose from activities such as visiting the Botanic Gardens, Science Centre, Kelvingrove Gallery, Ibrox stadium and museum tour, Edinburgh Playhouse (to watch Greatest Days), a cinema trip and Level X (bowling and gaming).
Participants were selected based on need, likely impact as well as ensuring that they did not have personal care needs we would be unable to meet. Additional carers benefitted from time to themselves whilst their cared for person was enjoying their break with us, doing things they would not normally be able to do at their own pace e.g. going away independently, having lie-ins.
In the months leading up to the trip, we held a series of afternoon teas to ensure that participants got to know each other and were able to help plan the activities. We worked closely with partners from other services in order to ensure that participants were supported practically and emotionally in the weeks before the trip, so they got the most out of it and could relax, knowing they would be supported with packing, building new relationships and any other needs.
We took wheelchairs and several project vehicles away with us so that we could more easily manage any mobility/health issues or should anyone need to return home unexpectedly. Staff and volunteers who would be driving undertook MIDAS training.
We addressed the following Creative Breaks principles:
Mutual Benefit: Carers/cared for people planned the trip with the staff team. Carers enjoyed time to themselves to recharge and feel uplifted by new experiences. There were new connections made, new experiences and adventures they would never otherwise have the opportunity to enjoy.
Personalisation: We listened to individual's hopes, concerns and needs and built this into our planning.
What Volunteering Hebrides has learned
When planning the trip, taking into account our previous experiences of providing Creative Breaks, we were very aware that some of those attending may need support in the days immediately following the time away. The trip took place from Monday to Thursday and this worked well as staff were available on the Friday to provide support as needed. We also kept in close contact with participants in the weeks following the trip and held social events so that those who attended could easily meet up with others.
We involved participants in suggesting and planning the itinerary for the trip, as we always do and, at times, the party split into smaller groups so that we could accommodate providing activities which were linked to their specific interests and requests e.g. touring Ibrox stadium. Feedback showed that this enabled people to have experiences which were incredibly special and meaningful for them and will leave them with lasting memories.
We adapted plans as needed to meet the needs of the group and unexpected circumstances, e.g. using taxis to travel to a less busy location to board our buses rather than trying to do this in a layby in the centre of the city. We also chose places to eat where there a range of foods were available, which catered for everyone's preferences and dietary needs and enabled participants to try new cuisines if they wanted to. This helped everyone to have feel comfortable and have their expectations met.
How Volunteering Hebrides has benefitted from the funding
The funding that we received allowed us to expand the numbers of carers and cared for people in our community who have now benefitted from experiencing one of our mainland trips. These trips would be unable to take place without the funding we have received from the Creative Breaks fund. Those who attended built up closer relationships with project staff and now feel more comfortable attending some of our other events and activities. Our organisation's reputation has been strengthened as everyone who attended commented on how supported and included they felt and this will lead to more people engaging with our projects in the future.
6 carers attending the trip will have had a memorable and fun-packed few days which will have taken their mind off tasks and life at home. 6 carers staying at home will have had a relaxing break in their own surroundings.
Each of the carers who attended the trip thoroughly enjoyed all of the activities that they took part in and returned from the trip re-vitalised and re-energised. We planned activities which would not normally be available to participants due to their caring responsibilities, additional support needs and lack of facilities on our remote island e.g. visiting Ibrox football stadium, watching a musical touring the UK. Those carers who did not attend the trip were able to relax either at home or on a break away with friends or family, knowing that their cared for person was safe and happy on our trip.
One of the carers, who attended the trip, does not have much opportunity usually to relax and enjoy leisure activities outside of their caring responsibilities. They thoroughly enjoyed their time away; whilst on the trip they were able to try new experiences within the safe and supportive group environment and make new friendships, getting to know others and forming an increased support network. The carer has an increased sense of confidence and the trip has increased their awareness of opportunities that they could explore in the future.
12 carers report having a more positive outlook on life, feeling less stressed and/or more energetic. 18 cared for people will report having increased confidence and self-esteem and feeling more included in their community.
All of those who attended the trip reported feeling cared for, a sense of belonging and being part of something special. Everyone really enjoyed the time away, the opportunity to catch up with old friends and form new friendships. Since we returned from the trip, friendships between group members have continued to grow and flourish independently. The programme of activities that we provided, gave participants lasting happy memories and an increased sense of wellbeing and confidence. We provided the emotional and practical support needed so that participants were able to take part in activities and visit locations that would have been inaccessible to them otherwise. Feedback showed that participants would be more likely to take part in similar activities in the future and try new things as they felt more confident after their initial experience.
A group of those who attended the trip have become more involved in our ongoing project activities since returning from the time away. Their attendances at our regular group activity sessions have increased, their confidence has increased in interacting with other members of the groups and they are taking part in more community activities independently.
Additional project outcome
Increased empowerment and strengthening of the organisation.
A number of participants on this trip had never been away with us before on previous Creative Breaks. Feedback showed that those who were initially anxious about the experience felt at ease and comfortable and thoroughly enjoyed the experience due to their involvement in planning the trip at the afternoon teas that we held, as well as whilst we were away, through the individual attention and personalised support that they received. Participants commented that they felt spoilt and pampered and would like the opportunity to take part in any future breaks.