Charlie House Saturday Club - Kielder Activity Break
A story by Charlie House
We provided a residential activity short break to The Calvert Trust at Kielder Forest Park for 28 children with complex needs and their families from across Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire.
The break enabled the children, siblings and parent carers to have fun trying new activities together and meet other families in a similar situation.
What Charlie House Saturday Club - Kielder Activity Break did
The trip consisted of 26 families receiving either a 3, 4 or 5 night short break spread over a total period of 2 weeks in October 2015 at The Calvert Trust Kielder Forest Park. The funding mainly supported accommodation and activities at the centre.
The accommodation provided was in specially adapted chalets, with wet rooms, hoists and disabled access, enabling the disabled child and their family to relax and enjoy their short break in appropriate surroundings. Additional specialist equipment was hired to meet the needs of some of the children, e.g. shower trolleys to assist with bathing.
The activities were supervised by a team of Activity Leaders from the Calvert Trust who had specialist knowledge and equipment to enable all the children to access all of the activities on offer at the centre. This was of great benefit to all our families attending as more often than not they are unable to do things together at home, with one parent doing activities with siblings and one parent being with the disabled child. The result was families doing activities together sometimes for the first time. For some of the families this was the first short break of any kind that they had had in several years.
Some of the families attending the break were already engaged with the charity and attend the monthly Saturday Club regularly, other families were contacted via the ASN schools in the area or through families thinking of others they knew that were in a similar situation that would benefit from the break and nominating them to the charity.
The activities undertaken by all the children, siblings and parent carers included zipwire, king swing, clay pigeon shooting, woodland walks, sailing, canoeing, motor boat cruise, hydrotherapy pool, sensory room, archery, climbing wall, orienteering, geocaching and abseiling.
In the evening the families would meet up in the communal areas for meals or after meals and got to know each other by sharing their experiences. The siblings made great friends with each other also, they played table tennis, pool and joined in with organised evening activities.
100% of families felt that their disabled child was able to try new activities in an appropriate setting with their family.
For one family they had always thought that their son would not be able to do the activities on the trip, however, the patience and knowledge of the Activities Team at the Calvert Trust and the access to specialist equipment enabled this child to do things they had never imagined possible.
"The night walk, climbing and other activities which we didn't think our son could do...yes, it opened up the opportunities for my son. Its amazing to see he could do and enjoy these activities."
" We had a chance to spend quality time together as a family, without the worries of everyday tasks. Was nice to be in an environment with other families in a similar situation"
"Came back feeling energised and uplifted by us all enjoying so much, new experiences and friendly understanding around."
"Gives you confidence that you can achieve what initially seems impossible with the right support."
"These breaks make you feel less isolated as everyone is in the same boat and have the challenges and frustrations that having a disabled child brings. It is great chatting to other parent/carers about the different aspects of caring for a disabled child and realising that everyone feels the same and has the same frustrations, whilst having a bit of fun and a laugh at the same time. I think it is also good for parents that don't really socialise with other parents on a regular basis, finding out they have things in common and forming new friendships."
"It is always helpful to feel as if you are part of a community, and to be supported and encouraged to go farther as part of that community. We are not often able to take advantage of outdoor/sporting activities without support from qualified people, so this was great for us. We felt as though our needs weren’t difficult, our family wasn’t strange!"
"You realise that you are not alone, that your experiences are echoed in other families lives also. Sharing your experiences with others that really understand and know how you feel makes you feel less isolated, makes you understand that your feelings are normal and that you are doing a great job in a very challenging situation."
87% of those families with siblings felt that the siblings had an opportunity to make new friendships.
"The real feeling of a holiday, coming back refreshed for the weeks ahead. Excitement and joy of experiences. Reinforces our sense of having fun together and extends sibling relationships e.g both children on zip wire together - trust in each other able to do that together. Deepened for us the sense of a Charlie House family and something very special to be part of"
"My husband and I both work, all our children benefited from time away from the day to day pressures of work and home. Was lovely as parents to have that extra time and space with our children"
"Hanging out with the other families in the evening, the pool was a huge hit, walking to the lake, being in such beautiful surroundings, and the leaders who helped us with all the activities—they were amazing!"
"Spending some quality time together as a family with everyone being able to participate in the activities. Meeting others and making new friendships."
What Charlie House has learnedThe activity short break was a huge success again this year, we were able to reach out to more families and we plan to keep this short break going in the future because of how much the children and families get out of the experience.
It is exceptionally rewarding to see how much enthusiasm the families have for taking part in the activities, they completely throw themselves into the whole experience and more importantly they are able to experience activities as a whole family, which for some is a rare occurrence due to the severity of the disabilities of one or more of their children. The families become much more confident in meeting others and getting out once they are home from the trip.
New families have been nominated via contact with the ASN schools in the area. The success of the trip has enabled us to advertise the benefits of the trip on social media, which in turn has enabled engagement with more families. Our Saturday Club network is growing and we are planning for further expansion in 2016.