Scotland Family Camp 2019
A story by Over The Wall
We hosted a Family Camp in Scotland for families of children with a serious life-limiting illness/disability. Camp was based at Tulliallan Police College, Fife from 26th – 28th April 2019 inclusive, (3 days, 2 nights).
Camp provided respite and fun for carers and children alike.
What Scotland Family Camp 2019 did
Over The Wall ran a long weekend break for families in Scotland which included one or more child with a serious illnesses. Camp took place at Tulliallan Castle in Fife from 26th to 28th April. Camp centred around inclusive and fun activities including mask making, archery, collage, interactive story, creative writing, inflatable obstacle course, climbing wall, swimming and game show night. Family time together was encouraged with many of the activities designed for the whole family to take part in. Other activities were children or adults only, to encourage parents and carers to have some respite from their caring responsibilities.
22 families took part and those in greatest need were prioritised, including those who had a high MDI score, those who would be unable to secure another form of break, and those who had not attended an Over The Wall camp before (55% of families at camp were new to Over The Wall). Families heard about us in a variety of ways: 9% through a friend, 45% being referred by a nurse or specialist, 18% through marketing materials picked up at hospital, 5% through Social Media and 23% through another charity.
As well as families we recruited, appointed and trained a team of 26 volunteers to support the campers either as medical or family support. Camp addressed the following Better Breaks priority areas, we prioritised places for families whose children have complex needs. Our camps are specifically designed to increase confidence through participation in sports and activities that the families may not have access to in their everyday lives, and to encourage them to continue their participation after camp.
At camp, we encourage the children to take more responsibility for their own care, and welfare, through forming new friendships, leading to greater independence as they grow into adulthood. We actively promote camp to hard to reach families, including refugees and those in remote rural areas. Our camps cater for families of all sizes and ages.
What Over The Wall has learned
Delivering Scotland Family Camp in 2019 has particularly allowed us to test our camper recruitment procedures to ensure that families in most need of support are reached.
This year at Scotland Family Camp we managed to increase the number of new families we served at camp from 40% in 2018 to 55% in 2019. This suggests the our growing reputation amongst consultant paediatricians and paediatric nurses in hospitals across Scotland, thanks to the efforts of our camper recruitment team, has led to an increase in the number of referrals from medical teams for new families.
Simultaneously to running Scotland Family Camp in 2019, Over The Wall has been growing our partnerships with other charities in Scotland including Edinburgh Children’s Hospital Charity and SNAC with whom we are running additional family camps in 2020. In 2019 23% of families attending Scotland Family Camp heard about camp through another charity which shows us that investing in partnerships benefits all areas of Over The Wall’s programme.
Previously we have had problems with late dropouts from camp, not unsurprising when beneficiaries are dealing with Health Challenges, so it is important for us to have a tested method of managing this so that the maximum number of carers and children can benefit from attending camp. In 2019 for the second year in a row we had a full capacity of families attending camp which provides encouraging evidence that the process we have established for managing late cancellations is working well.
How Over The Wall has benefitted from the funding
Thanks to the Better Breaks funding Over The Wall has been able to embed the Scotland Family Camp into our programme of work and provide a consistent and reliable service for children with serious health challenges and their carers in Scotland. There has been an increase in the number of referrals from Hospitals and other service providers in Scotland over the past 12 months which suggests Better Breaks funding has helped us to build a strong reputation nationally. Having the support of Better Breaks also reassures other funders, particularly Scottish trusts and foundations, that we are a safe pair of hands.
17 young people with serious illnesses and/or disabilities will feel more confident, will have higher self-esteem, will be more willing to try new things and will have made new friends.
Scotland Family Camp 2019 revolved around a fun and varied programme of activities ranging from an inflatable obstacle course, to a creative writing session. The programme of activities was designed so that every child, regardless of their support needs, was able to take part and succeed. For many of the children with Health Challenges it was a unique situation where they had access to exactly the same opportunities as their peers. 76% of families surveyed in an independent study by Coyne into Over The Wall’s 2019 Family Camps rated the activities 5 out of 5 (very satisfied), and the remaining 24% rated them 4 out of 5 (satisfied). Archery was most preferred activity, with 49% claiming it was in their top three preferred activities. This was followed by Swimming (32%) and Chill and Chat/Inflatable Assault Course (27%). 93% of families surveyed felt that their child was more willing to try new things as a result of taking part in activities at camp.
A day after he was born, Joshua was diagnosed with haemophilia, an inherited bleeding disorder which prevents blood from clotting to stop the flow of blood after a cut or injury. Since his diagnosis, Joshua’s childhood has been interrupted with regular visits to the hospital causing him to miss school time and opportunities to socialise with his friends. Due to a high alert to the risk of injury, Joshua is also often restricted in terms of the activities he can take part in, which can naturally be frustrating for him. Joshua’s mum, Kay had heard from other families she had met through the Haemophilia Society, that Over The Wall provided a free residential camp that would be perfect for Joshua, allowing him to get involved in activities in a safe environment. “The children were away swimming and on the climbing wall or doing archery- which are all activities they wouldn’t normally have access to- or are things I would be hesitant for them to try! Camp showed me they are capable of doing these things, and it showed them they could do it!” “Camp has been amazing for them -and for me.” adds Kay. “You can become nervous about the risk involved in some activities, but camp offers you this perfect place that enables them to try things in a safe environment. They can jump off at the deep end of life- but in a very controlled place.” “Joshua often has to sit out on activities but there was nothing at camp that he couldn’t do and, the medical team that is always around- so you know they are never going to be in a position when they aren’t safe or not looked after.”
17 families affected by childhood disability and serious illness will feel more connected, having enjoyed a unique opportunity to enjoy each other’s company, try new things, challenge each other, laugh together & relax. All campers will have a more positive outlook on life and feel better able to cope.
Scotland Family Camp 2019 provided a unique opportunity for families with a child experiencing a health challenge to spend quality time together, have a positive shared experience and make valuable memories. An independent survey of Over The Wall family camps resulted in 98% of parents and carers reporting that their child’s confidence has improved whilst at camp with 95% saying their self-esteem has also improved. When asked about the impact that camp has had on their children, parents participating in our family camp feedback “He is more willing to take charge of his condition and is positive about his future.” Parents had some of the burden of day-to day life as a carer lifted off them and many expressed relief at the chance to relax. They were also encouraged to reflect on their own well-being in the long- term. 93% of those surveyed in our feedback report agreed attending that camp has helped them to appreciate the need to look after themselves and their own health needs.
Harry who was born with VACTERL needed intestinal and oesophagus surgery within 36 hours of being born and within two weeks, he also had heart surgery. After a recovery period, he had further surgery and when he was two-and-a-half he had major surgery on his spine. Whilst many of the health challenges VACTERL brought were rectified through these surgical procedures, Harry still faces the challenges associated with intestinal issues and must wear a back brace for 20 hours of the day. Harry and his dad John were naturally apprehensive about camp, but soon after their arrival, they were overwhelmed by the atmosphere. “We were both surprised at how great camp was. We immediately felt a huge sense of closeness and truly welcomed. Then- well, we were swept up in a whirlwind of fun and activity!” “It wasn’t long before camp felt like the much-needed break from our normal routine. Looking back, I feel like camp actually allows you to forget about the things that you worry about in your daily life.” “Harry loved all the activities and took part in everything” adds John. “We both went on the climbing wall and he was so pleased about his achievements and the height he managed to reach. He also en-joyed the inflatable course and playing the board games with the other campers.” “It was great to spend time together with Harry- and the activities and challenges made it even more special. The camps are so unlike anything we have done before. Whilst we were at camp, it felt like Harry’s health issue almost disappeared as we were so absorbed with fun and new challenges. Challenges that weren’t health related- that Harry could face and conquer.”
50 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.
During Scotland Family Camp, parents and carers enjoyed time with their children, away from the stress of everyday life and enjoyed activities together. 55% of 2019 campers were new to Over The Wall, meaning that we were giving many families their first experience of family respite. Scotland Family camp offered parents and carers the chance to have some respite from their caring responsibilities and take part in activities which they would not normally get to do. In our feedback report the Tea and Chat sessions where adults had a chance to relax with each other whilst the children did activities together was the 3rd most popular activity on the programme and 98% felt that spending time in peer group activities was important. At camp parents and carers were also able to fully focus on having fun with their children, and to have new experiences together. Over The Wall’s feedback on family camps showed that 95% of participants felt that spending time in family activities was important.
Camper Dad John found that Scotland Family Camp led to him and his son doing more activities together: “Harry really enjoyed the rock climbing at camp, and the board game Risk that he was introduced to. Since camp he has shown a lot of interest in those two activities and has recently been involved in other outdoor adventure sports (paddle boarding) and is keen to do some mountain biking as a result of camp. Now, we often play board games as a family and he is adamant that the shortened version of Risk they made up on camp is the most fun way of playing!”
17 families will feel less isolated, more supported and better able to cope with the daily challenges they face.
Feedback from an independent survey into Over The Wall family camps showed that following camp 88% of participants felt better connected to other parents who shared the same challenges. 58% of families felt that a result of coming to a family camp they felt better informed about other support services available to them. Also, compared to the same study in 2018 there has been a 7% increase in respondents feeling better able to care for their child and family as a result of attending a Family Camp. When asked about their most significant experience during their stay at camp one parent said “The feeling of being looked after, supported, I haven't felt that in a long time. The volunteers, the staff, everyone was so helpful.” When asked how meeting other families affected them parents made the following comments, “It made us feel ‘normal’ again. So nice hearing other family’s stories.” “It helped me to understand that we are not alone”
Harry’s dad John was blown away by the opportunity to interact with other parents at this year’s Scotland Family Camp: “It was also wonderful for the parents to simply talk and listen to each other’s stories. At camp, parents are able to put their everyday concerns about their children into perspective by listening to each other. It’s amazing to hear what some families deal with - and you get the sense that they feel the same way about you when you tell your story.” Joshua’s mum Kay found camp was the start of a crucial support network for her family and herself: “Joshua and Lauren swapped numbers and social media details with the campers they met, and still stay in touch. We also met with families with haemophilia which we have met up with outside of camp. That has been great for me and Joshua- as that particular family are in similar situations to us. We often ask each other questions about our experiences. You don’t feel like you are the only ones.”