Two of our experienced helpers explain why they continue to volunteer each year
Sue, a volunteer for over 10 years
I’ll always be grateful to my mate Claire. While working together at BA, I was aware that at a certain time of year she would begin to act strangely, often asking us if we had any spare fishnet tights, or water pistols and then disappearing for a week. She always returned a different person – apart from needing quick kips in the afternoon, somehow the daily work stresses didn’t seem to bother her anymore. I finally plucked up the courage to ask her what she was up to - ‘Camp’ was the simple reply ‘you should do it, you’d love it.’ Boy was she right!
I attended my first Camp in 2000 after duly swotting up on my handbook, practicing manual lifting and getting several early nights in advance (I’d heard sleep would be in short supply); I’d seen the video and bought the T-shirt (actually, been given a very fetching yellow one) but nothing prepared me for the mix of emotions on the first day. I wasn’t inexperienced with kids either, having trained as a teacher, and briefly been a children’s party entertainer but my initial reaction was an overwhelming sense of ‘Crikey, can I do this… what if I break them?’ This feeling quickly disappeared with the realisation that these were entirely normal kids, funny, naughty, cheeky, challenging and incredibly patient – especially when a novice like me tried to put a pad on them back to front.
Now, 9 years and 8 Camps later, I wouldn’t miss it for the world. For me, Camp means a week among the best bunch of folk you could ever want to meet. I ache from all the belly laughs from the one liners the children come out with, my brain buzzes with ideas of activities to get stuck into with them and it’s a real excuse to indulge in having fun. I’m a frustrated writer at heart and one year penned a ghost story set in Camp to read to them. It terrified one of the lads so much he couldn’t sleep and I felt dreadful, but the next day, despite not being able to talk and wheel chair bound, he hatched a revenge plot with all in his dorm and I had to run a midnight gauntlet of plastic spiders, water bombs and other unmentionables – I can honestly say I have never been so happy in all my life and I’ll never forget the grin on Owen’s face.
When people hear that I volunteer they often say, ‘Oh, you’re so good to do that, I don’t think I could…’ and then I feel a complete fraud because I get from Camp so much more than I put into it. It’s a great leveller and certainly puts life into perspective – but it’s more than that – the team spirit, sense of camaraderie and trust among the helpers is amazing and tremendous friendships have been forged over the years. I did miss one year due to my Wedding to Charlie (now a veteran helper in his own right) and felt a pang of envy, when, stuck behind my desk I received a text saying “we’re at Parkgate, what flavour ice cream do you want?”
Andy, a helper for more than 20 Years
I work in a high pressure manufacturing company so every year I return to the camp arranged by the Heswall Disabled Children’s Holiday Fund as it brings a sense of perspective back to my life and the personal rewards I get are priceless. Each of the children attending the camp get an amazing amount out of the experience and memories are created that I’m sure will last the rest of their lives. I’ve also spoken to many parents & guardians over the years and they are always keen to point out how much benefit their families gain from the children going away for a week. They get to have a much needed rest and can spend time with other siblings. At the end of every camp I’m humbled by the thanks and praise that we receive from the families and I’m lifted by the smiles (and tears) from the boy’s, some of whom don’t want to go home. I’ve worked with HDCHF* for more than 20 years now and I believe it is unique in what it offers to the community.