OTW & SNAC Family Camp
A story by Over The Wall
We delivered a day-long online Camp in the Cloud family camp on Saturday 30th August which served 11 children living with serious illness, and 27 of their family members from Scotland. We brought fun, respite and connection to families at a time of crisis.
What OTW & SNAC Family Camp did
Over The Wall ran a one day online Camp in the Cloud session for families in Scotland which included one or more child with a serious illnesses. Camp took place on Saturday 30th August and was a covid-safe alternative to the residential camp we had planned to run, delivered in the safety and comfort of the family home.
We had planned to deliver a session just for families of children living with JIA, however staffing impact on the charity because of Covid-19 meant we had to close camper applications early. As a result of this we decided to run a combined camp that would include and connect other families of seriously ill children in Scotland sourced from Edinburgh Children’s Hospital and the IBD camp we have planned to run in Scotland. We had a total of 52 individuals from Scotland take part in this session of Camp in the Cloud; 38 carers and 20 seriously ill children and young people. 20 families from Scotland took part.
When recruiting for the camp families in greatest need were prioritised, including those who had a high MDI score, those who had not attended an OTW camp before, and those who would be unable to secure a break from home or hospital in any other setting. Prior to Camp each family was sent a resource box containing all the resources and instructions they would need for the day’s activities.
During Camp in the Cloud we ran a full structured day of activities hosted on our bespoke built virtual platform starting with a welcome and the opportunity to vote for your favorite dance for the dance party later in the day. Then each family was encouraged to take part in a variety of optional activities and to post on the message board pictures of them taking part. Activities included Beetle drive, Balloon Modelling, Letter Scavenger Hunt, Family Board Game time, Chill and Chat sessions with Other Families, QBE Coding Activity, OTW dance party. Everyone came together at the end of the day to take part in a Family quiz night.This project addressed the following Better Breaks priority areas: Complex Needs, Independence, transition to adulthood, Diversity and Under 5’s.
What Over The Wall has learned
Developing new short-break activities - planning and delivering a virtual programme for the first time provided a host of learning opportunities. This included the development of an innovative online platform using Moodle; a new activities programme which could be completed by campers independently, facilitated online and use resources that can be posted; learnings around online safety and use of online platforms/software.
Opportunities to engage new families - through the development of Camp in the Cloud we have realised the additional opportunities this mode of service delivery presents to impact campers that wouldn't normally be able to participate in our camps (e.g. those with medical conditions which we may currently exclude, those who are unable to travel). In 2021 we will also be able to provide greater flexibility to families as sessions won't be based on locations in Scotland and families will be able to apply for any camp they are eligible for, rather than the one that is 'closest'. We're also hoping to use our learnings from Camp in the Cloud to support the delivery of a new, virtual outreach programme.
Partnership working - provided opportunities for campers to attend from a variety of partner charities. The development of these partnerships will continue into 2021 to provide more opportunities for supporting and working with other children's charities. We've also worked incredibly closely with our platform developers, AdaptiVLE, to create a platform which represents campers needs and meets the outcomes we aim to achieve. The development of the platform included the use of camper focus groups to ensure co-production and suitability of the platform and activities.
How Over The Wall has benefitted from the funding
Better Breaks funding has enabled Over The Wall to respond rapidly to the impact of Covid-19, and to design and implement a brand new pilot project to bring camp to children with serious health challenges and their carers remotely. Not only does this ensure service provision for as long as the Covid-19 pandemic disrupt our physical camp schedule, it also create an opportunity for us to reach more seriously ill children and their carers in the long term, especially those who, due to the nature of their illness or family logistics, may not be able to attend physical camps.
17 young people with JIA will feel more confident, will have higher self-esteem, will be more willing to try new things and will have made new friends.
Having merged the attendees from our intended SNAC, Edinburgh Children’s Hospital and IBD camps into one Camp in the Cloud session we ended up supporting 20 children with health challenges, 3 more than planned. The activities that children and their families could get involved with were carefully tested before the camp by a focus group of previous campers, to ensure they were fun, interesting, and challenging enough to be up to camps usual standard. Our post camp evaluation found that taking part in these activities had a positive impact on the children living with serious illness: 56% of families said their child was more confident, 74% of families reported their child was more willing to try new things, and 30% said their child was more confident in making new friends having taken part in Camp in the Cloud. When asked what their child gained from the experience one parent commented “They were happy and had clearly had fun, [Camp in the Cloud] gave them something to talk about."
As a triathlete and an accomplished swimmer who often competed nationally, physical activity has always been a big part of Evan’s life. However, in 2019, when he was just 12, Evan began to experience pains in his lower back that his mum naturally assumed was a result of his active behaviour. “We had given Evan different stretches to do, for what we thought was muscle soreness”, said Susan, Evan’s mum, “but then after time, the pain got so bad he couldn’t sleep. It became excruciating.” Evan went to hospital for scans and was eventually diagnosed with juvenile idiopathic arthritis in his spine and lower back. “Suddenly, Evan was unable to do the things he loved.” Said Susan. “He had to give up the training for triathlons and swimming club. He could only swim using his arms. All of this impacted him psychologically.” When Susan discovered Over The Wall, she knew the camps would be perfect for helping Evan, whilst giving him an opportunity to experience different activities in a residential camp specifically for children with juvenile idiopathic arthritis. After applying and being offered a place, Susan was going to keep the news of camp as a surprise. However, with the outbreak of Covid-19, all 2020 camps were unfortunately cancelled. In response to the camp closures, Over The Wall created an interactive online platform designed specifically for the children who were scheduled to attend camp in 2020. The aim was to bring, the joy and magic of the physical camps into each family’s home. “We were so impressed with the way that camp was organised and with the resources that arrived. Evan had been shielding, even when lockdown restrictions eased, and so, for him to receive a mysterious box, crammed with activities and interesting things to do, was amazing.” “There was just so much to do, and the great thing was that even after camp, Evan continued using the resources and playing the games again and again. He even carried on making balloon models, as there were lots left over. He made them for all his cousins!”
17 families affected by childhood disability and serious illness will feel more connected, having enjoyed a unique opportunity to enjoy each other’s company, challenge each other, laugh together & relax. All campers will have a more positive outlook on life and feel better able to cope.
We had 20 families from Scotland take part in the camp session and the vast majority of these gave very positive feedback about how Camp in the Cloud improved their wellbeing. In the post-camp survey 74% of families stated we feel better about ourselves, 74% of families said we are happier, 63% of families said we feel refreshed, and 52% of families said we feel less worried as a result of taking part. When asked what their families gained from Camp in the Cloud, a lot of the answers were around the family members communication well and having fun together. Here are a couple of examples: “Kids didn't ask to play on tech all day! Had fun as a family but we also left them to do a lot on their own as that seemed to boost their confidence and work well as brothers for once!” “The children were]Slightly more talkative with each other.”
Evan’s Mum, Susan, shared with us how Camp in the Cloud brought them closer as a family and gave them a much needed break. “The wonderful thing about Camp in the Cloud was that the whole family got involved- and everyone loved it! We had such a good laugh doing the balloon modelling and we are a very competitive family, so the quiz was also great for us. We weren’t expecting it to be, but the story writing activity was also a great success. We had a lot of fun with it.” “Even though it was an ‘online’ camp, Evan wasn’t just sat at a computer on his own, in fact Camp in the Cloud made us all interact as a family. We all got involved and really enjoyed spending family time together working on all the activities.”
43 carers of sick children (including some young carers) will have rediscovered hobbies or interests or been introduced to new ones, including ones they can enjoy with their whole family.
All the activities in this Camp in the Cloud session were designed to be done as a family so carers were given the opportunity to try new activities and to focus on relaxing together as a family unit. The feedback that we received post camp supported this aim as 74% of families said we are closer as a family, and 60% of families said we more positive about the future because of taking part. When asked what they gained from Camp in the Cloud these were some of the answers: “Participating in fun activities that we would not otherwise have had.” “It was lovely to have a day where it felt like we were trying something new and not at home (even though we were!) Kids loved it and so did we.” “Lovely selection of activities, camp staff were easy to contact and quick to reply. Website was wonderfully designed.”
In his early years, Jack (name changed) regularly complained of soreness all over his body and was often fatigued, but it was not until he was around 6 years old that he was finally diagnosed with juvenile idiopathic arthritis. “None of us knew why Jack always felt sore, and it’s very difficult for a child to express themselves at that age.” said Jack’s mum. “It took a long time to finally diagnose what Jack had. Arthritis now affects all of his joints from his jaw to his toes and often, he is so fatigued, that it takes him a while to come around in the mornings.” As a result of his health challenge, Jack gradually became more and more withdrawn and his shyness meant he began to struggle socialising with other children. “I immediately knew that camp would be something that could really help with Jack’s shyness. He doesn’t really enjoy meeting new people, so to be interactive and to meet other families seemed right for us.” In 2019, Jack and his mum attended the Scotland Family Camp. After arriving, it took Jack a few days to adjust, “There is so much activity and involvement at camp- it was hard at first, but Jack gradually became more and more involved as we went on, it was a great experience for him.” said Jack’s mum. “He even did a dance on stage and really came out of himself. He was like a different personality by the end. He really had fun.” After their first experience of camp, Jack and his mum were keen to apply again, and were accepted on another Family Camp in 2020. However, the outbreak of Coronavirus meant that camps across the UK were cancelled. As an alternative, Over The Wall created an interactive online platform called Camp in the Cloud which was designed specifically for the children who were scheduled to attend camp in 2020. The aim was to bring the joy and magic of the physical camps into each family’s home. “Jack was really looking forward to camp, so it was hard. But when the box arrived, and we began to understand what Camp in the Cloud really was- the excitement started to build. We both agreed not to look in the box until camp started.” “When we did- we had such fun. We really enjoyed the balloon animal making kit. We were actually doing that for days after camp finished! It was something we hadn’t tried before. We really enjoyed making the animals together. Camp in the Cloud also gave us some great laughs. The face painting was hysterical – it wasn’t pretty- but it brought plenty of laughs.” “I think it also really helped Jack to feel connected, and part of something too. He chatted away with another camper he met and got on really well with. They were chatting away about Fortnight and things - hopefully, they can meet up again.” “Camp also got us up and dancing in the front room, which brought many laughs. Camp in the Cloud definitely put a smile on Jack’s face- it was a big lift for both of us. “If I’m really honest, Jack quite enjoyed being in the comfort of his own home, whilst still being able to experience camp. It gave us the opportunity to spend some time having a really good laugh together- which we both really needed.”
17 families will feel less isolated, more supported and better able to cope with the daily challenges they face.
The Camp in the Cloud format does offer less opportunity for carers of children with serious illness to interact with and support each other than our residential camp model. This is due to the camp activities being focused around bringing the family together and it being difficult to run different activities for different groups, eg. parents, young carers etc. The feedback we received from families reflected this. Only 18% of families said they have made new friends, however 60% of families said they feel less isolated and alone. With one family particularly emphasizing that something they gained from the experience was meeting the other campers. Even without dedication interaction time for parents etc there was still a sense of camaraderie and shared experience among the families who took part which may have contributed to their feeling less isolated and on their own. 60% of families said we are better able to overcome personal challenges as a result of Camp in the Cloud.
Evan’s mum was able to share with us how taking part in Camp in the Cloud helped him to feel less isolated and more able to share his health challenge with his friends, creating more support for him outside of the family unit. “Up until recently, Evan had only experienced the negative aspects of his illness. Going to camp is one of the things he can now put down as a positive, and that’s really important.” “Camp has also helped give him the confidence to talk to his friends about his health challenge. Having these activities and learning new things has allowed Evan to say- I learnt to do this at Camp in the Cloud-which is something I am able to do because of my illness.” “It’s allowed him to feel confident and comfortable talking about himself, and why he was taking part.”