Over The Wall Family Camps - Scotland
A story by Over The Wall
We provided a weekend camp (Friday 17th May – Sunday 19th May) for the whole family who have a child with a serious illness or condition.
Using our Therapeutic Recreation model, our families participated in age appropriate activities ranging from ropes course, games, arts and crafts. The weekend gave families an opportunity to focus on being together as family.
Tip 1:Confirm date and location as soon as possible. These individuals have busy lives and need to know when the programme will be well in advance.
Tip 2:A theme can carry a programme a long way. Our families loved the superhero in training theme!
Tip 3:Sometimes the simplest activity have the greatest impact. Especially when we live in a world with technology all around us, playing a game where you don't require any equipment or simply sharing a meal as a family creates lasting memories.
CASE STUDY: After camp we received a letter from a parent. When the family arrived home the parents had to break the news that their grandmother passed away. After a ‘silly-weekend’ the news was devastating. Their parents were grateful of the weekend as it helped the children cope with their loss. When Simon found out the news he unpacked his bag and put on his secret agent costume he made at camp, ‘Simon had to be brave’ his mum said. During the creative writing session they wrote a story about their grandmother which couldn’t be more appropriate. The parents were so grateful the children had the opportunity to reflect on their grandmothers life in such a way.
‘Once again, it was a pleasure meeting you all. We are bringing back home great memories from our short time at OTW.’ – Simon’s Mum
On the last day the dad was sitting on the side-lines again and the next thing you know his children had encouraged him to get involved and he was hula hooping. Also during the weekend on of our staff was speaking to the mum. She was so grateful to be able to sit down with her family for a meal, not worrying about preparing the meal or washing up. She felt like a mum, not a carer.
The carers are grateful of the help they receive over the weekend, and it is just there, they do not have to ask for it. This transfers into life after camp, as they leave camp feeling re-energised and re-focused.
We ensure there is free time and have a free flow section where we have many different activities to choose from. By providing high and low energy activities we aim to have something for everyone.
In many cases this is taken away when a child is ill because they do not get a say in the treatment plan, they have other people making decisions for them. In many cases it also gives the parents an opportunity to see what their child is capable of. It gives the parents increased confidence in their child in turn giving their child more freedom to personally grow and develop.
This is frustrating to us as we are limited to the overall number of places, not the number of families. We are working on a plan to ensure this is not the case for 2014. We did learn that the number of participants did not affect the outcomes of the programme and families enjoyed the attention and support they received from the staff and volunteers.
It is truly magical how 48 hours can breakdown so many barriers and the genuine smiles and laughs you get to witness as staff and volunteers is so encouraging. We became aware of an unanticipated benefit from a parent after camp.
We did a creative writing activity where the families write a story together and the book gets published. This one family decided to write about their grandmother. We later found out their beloved grandmother died over the weekend and when the children found out when they were home they were able to use their time at camp and their book as a coping tool. The parents were ever grateful.
Our programmes are not offered on a first come, first serve basis but on need which is access through our clinical staff.
Our staff have a meeting at the end of each day and at the end of the weekend. In addition there are two meetings with volunteers (one of Saturday and one at the end of the programme) where they can address any issues or concerns of their families. This is very important as the families tend to open up to the volunteers as they are working so closely together.
In addition Over The Wall is participating in a research project measuring camp outcomes being conducted by Yale School of Medicine.