A story by Volunteering Hebrides
We provided a trip to visit mainland Scotland for adults with disabilities and their carers offering a break away from their remote island surroundings. The trip offered a wide range of activities and experiences, whilst energising and offering increased social connection to all participants.
What Befriending Away did
We took 23 people (participants, volunteers, carers and staff) from the Isle of Lewis away to the mainland for a 3 night/4 day trip to Strathpeffer, offering a packed itinerary, with plenty of choice.
The activities took place from the 30th April to 3rd May 2019 in and around the Strathpeffer and Inverness areas of highland Scotland. Participants are all involved with our Befriending Lewis project and are adults facing a variety of challenges including mobility, mental health, Autistic Spectrum disorder and physical health. Many of them are cared for by parents, spouses or adult children; these carers really enjoyed the time they had to themselves whilst we were away, allowing them to have more leisure time and get things done.
They also benefited enormously from seeing the positive impact the trip had had on the beneficiaries. Other participants with us were supported on the trip by their own carer or by their volunteer carers.
A member of staff was dedicated to the organisation, meaning that time could be dedicated to ensuring all arrangements and itineraries were suitable. Regular meetings were held with staff and volunteer carers before the trip, and everyone, including participants, were kept up to date with arrangements and were fully involved in choosing what they wanted to do. Individual needs were thoroughly risk assessed, we took 3 minibuses to ensure a variety of activities could be offered and staff and volunteers all underwent MIDAS training and Emergency First Aid training.
Carers will have more opportunities to enjoy a life outside of their caring role: The diverse range of activities offered meant that carers could be involved in the planning of and enjoy activities of their choosing with and independently of the person they care for.
Carers and the people they care for will have improved wellbeing, all participants have since reported greatly improved motivation to engage with other activities and events.
What Volunteering Hebrides has learned
Following our project, which was the first of its kind for our organisation, we now have a better understanding of who might benefit from the trip and how they will benefit. This will better enable us to target carers and cared for people most in need of support.
We will also be looking at developing new short breaks activities, as we have been overwhelmed by the positive outcomes of this trip. We are looking at developing a new, winter short break for some of the younger members of our group, whilst also looking to repeat a spring trip for our main group.
We learned that we could possibly have benefited from a couple of additional volunteers to support us with the mobility issues of our clients and to help deal with sea sickness problems on the ferry crossing. This would have put less pressure on the staff and volunteers who came with us.
How Volunteering Hebrides has benefitted from the funding
Our organisation has benefitted enormously in a number of ways from the Creative breaks funding. We already have a very good reputation for delivering services to vulnerable adults and their carers, taking on this trip however has really cemented this, as the community has seen that we are really prepared to go that extra mile to support the people we work with. We have further enhanced the trust that people have in us to deliver good, enjoyable and valuable services. Already we are seeing increased intake in our other activities from participants on the trip (health walks, cycle rides, trips out), demonstrating that participants have gained confidence to try different activities. The skills required for organisation of this trip are essentially transferable skills that we use in our everyday activities, however, we now know better how to apply these into organising a project of this scale involving a multi day activity and we also know the time commitment involved in doing this and will be better placed to plan for this in the future. We recognise the strengths and weaknesses of our team in this and can put measures, additional training where necessary, in place in good time for future projects.
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. 12 carers staying at home will have had a relaxing break in their own surroundings e.g. having a lie in some days and doing things that they’re not always able to.
People who came on the trip are already asking where we are going next and we are already beginning to make plans for another trip. People did look forward to the trip over the winter – they enjoyed looking at proposed itineraries and deciding where to go and discussing all the shopping they would be able to do. Since our trip, we are already seeing how much pleasure people are getting from talking about our experiences on the mainland, the places they visited, the funny things that happened and even the terrible ferry crossing on the way back! People are enjoying reminiscing about the hotel, the super food and the very friendly staff. Carers have told us how much they benefited from sharing their caring load with others and building friendships with other people in the same boat. For carers that did not come with us, they reported enjoying a break at home and the opportunity to relax a little and do things they might not often have the chance to do. They were also thrilled to se
Peter is a 24 year old man, with high functioning Asperger’s, elements of OCD, weight management issues and a food disorder. His parents are his main carers and his care is shared between them and balanced with their own employment. Peter no longer attends college or any other services, although he has been involved with Befriending Lewis for group befriending sessions which he normally attends with his mother, Helen. Both Peter and Helen attended the trip with us. Initially, Peter made his choices about which activities he wanted to take part in and Helen chose the same ones in order to accompany him. Every day, our itinerary included activities designed to appeal to (amongst others) the small group of young men with Autistic Spectrum Disorder who were with us, for example we went bowling, visited Landmark Forest Adventure, went to the cinema and walked to Rogie Falls. When Helen became aware that Peter was comfortable enough to come on his own with us and that we were more than happy for this, she was able to leave him to go with us and join a group of ladies who were spending the day shopping in Inverness. This had a really positive impact on Helen’s enjoyment of the trip as it gave her a real opportunity to relax in a different environment. The hotel we chose was extremely well adapted to our group and we were able to relax in the evenings in the lounge, playing games and having quizzes. Helen enjoyed taking part in the quiz whilst Peter preferred to sit on the periphery of the group with his tablet, however, on more than one occasion, when a quiz question wasn’t answered from the teams, we would hear Peter pipe up from across the room with the answer – often to some quite difficult questions. People were most impressed with his Peter’s general knowledge and he enjoyed demonstrating this. One of Helen’s big worries about Peter is his lack of ability to form relationships and make friendships. She was absolutely delighted to see Peter becoming increasingly comfortable with the people on the group generally and in particular with another young man on the trip, with whom occasional spontaneous conversations were taking place. For example, whilst out bowling (Helen was shopping at the time) Peter was seen going over to the other boy and suggesting what he could do to improve his technique. We found it quite emotional to see this happening as both boys have similar problems. One of the really positive outcomes of the trip was the interaction between the people on the trip, from different generations and different walks of life. People had seen Peter at other befriending events prior to the trip but nobody had very much to do with him. Going forward, and in particular in our young people’s befriending group, the beginnings of relationships made during our visit to the mainland should have really positive outcomes. Helen is really happy about this and is looking forward to building on this.
Carers report having a more positive outlook on life, feeling less stressed and/or more energetic. Cared for report having increased confidence and self-esteem and feeling more included in their community.
We know that this mainland break positively impacted all the carers and cared for people involved. Our post trip evaluations show that 100% of people on the trip thoroughly enjoyed themselves, that it led to them making new friends, allowed them to interact with people they might not previously have talked to and above all improved their self-esteem. Due to the diverse nature of the group, nearly everyone found something they could do to help other people (helping others who were feeling sick on the ferry, pushing wheelchairs, contributing to quiz team achievements, giving out itineraries, helping someone older across the road, giving up their room for someone with reduced mobility etc) and we know this has had a real positive effect on self-esteem. Again, due to the varied ages of people, we felt like a big family – and in fact one of the participants actually commented on this. We had a real laugh whilst we were away and this memory is something that everyone will take away with t
Donna is a married woman, who is in a wheelchair most of the time following an injury (she can occasionally walk short distances) and she also suffers from fibromyalgia. She was referred to us for a befriender because, although she has a family, she spends a large part of every day at home on her own and is very reliant on her husband (her main carer) to get out of the house. She had a befriender who she liked very much but who unfortunately had to withdraw from the service and Shona felt this loss quite keenly. Jean first got involved with Befriending Lewis as a volunteer when she was signed off work a couple of years ago and is a Befriender herself but has been increasingly struggling in the past year since a diagnosis of progressive MS. She has had difficulties in coming to terms with this, to the extent that she has even resisted using a stick for walking. She lives with her partner. Her partner, who is her carer, suffers from recurring psychotic episodes which have taken a turn for the worse recently. Donna and Jean had already started to get to know each other a little at group events but the trip away has really cemented their friendship. They really enjoyed planning what they were going to do while we were away, in particular which shops they would go to and looking forward to the trip really helped them both get through a difficult winter. They were put in rooms next to each other and chose the same activities and by the end of the week they said they felt like they had always known each other. The relationship is one that will support both of these ladies, going forward. They both responded 100% positively to all aspects of the trip (in spite of a problem with bathroom accessibility facilities in their rooms). They both really enjoyed being part of the group and being able to relax in the evening with us all, plus appreciated the willingness of staff, volunteers and other participants to push wheelchairs to enable them to access different activities and shops and to give them time for browsing. Interestingly, since we came back Jean has ordered herself a wheelchair. This is a positive outcome as previously she didn’t even want to be seen with a stick, and demonstrates a better acceptance of her condition and a willingness to use aids to help her have a better quality of life. Her friendship with Donna, who uses a wheelchair too, has helped this. Donna attended another event shortly after the trip; when we went to collect her we were delighted that she was not in her wheelchair, saying that she felt so good and emotionally strong after the trip that she felt able to walk the short distances between car and venue. Both ladies felt they had gained some independence through the trip, through not having to rely on their carers every time they wanted something. The carers were delighted to see the positive outcome on the well being, which has encouraged them to want to give them as many new opportunities as possible.