I appreciate that I have spoken about my experience many times in previous blog posts, but I need to express that it was such a big part of my life, I need to continue to keep those memories alive.
I have been a participant Birmingham PHAB Camps since I was eight, first as a camper, now as a fundraiser and a media representative in order to help support the charity in any way that I can.
Before the charity, I was an anxious, quiet, shy little girl, (if you can believe that!). I kept myself to myself and did the bare minimum in life. I got up, I went to school, then I came home, ate, watched TV and went to bed. I attended my physio appointments or the various of other hospital appointments, (there were a lot.)
This was the same routine every day.
When I first found out about Birmingham PHAB camps and what they do, I was curious and intrigued to find out more. I spoke to the person who invited me to participate as I didn’t want to commit to anything until I knew more about it and what was involved.
The main aim of the charity is to enable those with disabilities and non-disabilities to come together in action packed holidays that embrace every ability.
In every activity that takes place on the camps, they adapt the activity so all the participates can join in and have fun, despite their needs.
Hearing it was residential camps, I was reluctant to go at first as though I’d gone out with friends and family, without my parents, I hadn’t had the confidence to be away from my parents for a long period of time before.
I thought it through again and again and though I knew it would be tremendously difficult to be away from home, I knew it would be an experience that I would be crazy to give up.
When I was due to start my first year on junior camp, I was surprised and so pleased to hear Alex, my brother, had signed up to be a volunteer on the camp. I found it a reassurance and a form of safety blanket. I could enjoy myself with the thought of my brother being there just in case.
I still laugh now at the memories of Alex while on the camps. I remember, like it was yesterday, when Alex was dressed in a Hawaiian skirt and leis outfit.
It was so ridiculously funny, I truly wish that I had taken a photo that day. Then when I moved camps, I relieved anxieties of being away from my family, by taking a photograph of my parents on the camps with me, which I looked at every time I missed them and felt sad.
I found it great to share rooms with my fellow campers throughout the holidays and we were all in it together. I was able to socialise with disabled participants and non-disabled participants alike and share the experience with them all. It was a great place to be.
Everyone was very fun and supportive and every moment was fantastic.
We always had a laugh every day and night and through these camps, I was able to form strong friendship groups, which I still have to this day. I was able to relaxed without the fear of being judged. I didn’t have to pretend to be someone else, I was totally and truly myself.
Through the charity, I was able to participate in activities that I did before or never thought I could.
I was able to participate in the activities to my full extent as the charity adapted the activities to suit my needs as well as my abilities.
I was surrounded by a group of people my own age with the similar or the same needs as myself, so I didn’t feel awkward about my disability and my difficulties showing when I joined in on the activities.
On the junior and senior camps, I really I enjoyed going swimming, it allowed me to get out of my chair and stretch my legs.
Feeling the bottom of the pool underneath my feet gave me a real sense of freedom and achievement. I also loved the water fights that took place and a great opportunity to get everyone involved and unwind. Everyone got soaked and it was one hell of a laugh.
Another anxiety of mine was the fear that I would need assistance in the night. But then I had to remind myself again, that there were participants with similar needs to mine and there would be more than me needing assistance in the night, as well as the volunteers having had previous training on the needs of the participants, so were prepared to help if we needed it. All involved on or behind the camps wanted us to enjoy the moments on the camps.
Thinking back, my time on venture camp was probably some of my strongest memories of Birmingham PHAB Camps.
Junior and senior camp helped me build the foundation of confidence and friendship groups, but venture camp helped me discover who I was the person and through them was able to become a more confident, outspoken person.
I was also able to explore more challenges for myself and activities that I never thought I could.
These were activities such as gymnastics, rock – climbing and abseiling and this was just a few that I was able to take a part in.
I was intimidated at first, but it was able to push me out of my comfort zone and once I did them a few times, I thoroughly enjoyed them and wish I could do them again.
I think these camps in particular, had more emphasis on and reinforcing the theme and slogan of the charity, ‘Action Packed Holidays That Embraces Every Ability.’
Even more so on these camps and for these activities, I truly admire how the charity adapted these more active activities so all the participants, despite their disability/ability could join in.
Volunteers of this camp as well as all of the camps are fell of energy and are fully committed to wanting all of the campers to enjoy every single moment that we are there on the camps and they, as well as everyone involved in Birmingham PHAB Camps want us to get the full impact of the camps and what they are trying to achieve through the camps.
Being able to participate on these activities on venture camp has allowed me to build stronger friendship groups and has truly shaped the way I go forward and do things now.
Even now, after so many years, people who I speak to cannot believe I have done such activities do not believe me.
I don’t know whether its general disbelief or disbelief of me doing the activities because my disability prevents me from doing these activities.
I don’t know and to be honest, I don’t want to know. Whatever reasons for this was, they were experiences of a lifetime.
Though I did miss my parents on these camps, I must admit that I was way to busy and distracted and this way I had much more to tell them when I returned home from the camps.
Meanwhile, I was amongst close friends, which I made through the camps and volunteers were always up for a laugh at all times.
Thinking back and finding the CDs full of photos and videos that they sent us, always brings a smile to my face. In fact, I might go and search for these CDs to reminisce over these great times.
Unfortunately, I soon reached the age limit in which I got to old to participate on the camps. Not being in the camps has made me very sad and still does to this day.
After a while, I thought about it and I knew I wanted to continue to be a part of the charity in some form, so I asked and fundraising committee to help out from that angle.
As the charity isn’t government funded they rely on donations, sponsorship and fundraising events they host themselves, so I know my work on the fundraising committee would be really beneficial.
There was a lot of members on the fundraising committee and it important for this as the funds raised are crucial for the charity to keep running and enable disabled and non-disabled participants to experience these camps at the level I did.
I became a member of the fundraising committee and I helped organising and promoting fundraising events to be held to raise the much-needed funds.
I also took part in approaching companies and organisations to ask them to provide sponsorship of the charity, or at the hope they would donate a raffle prize to be given away at one of the charity’s fundraising events.
Alongside this, I did my own fundraising for the charity. I did bake sales as well as other similar events. I also used my own media knowledge and experience to increase funds and awareness for the charity.
One of the ways I did this was writing and developing an article about the charity itself and my experience with the charity.
My aim was to write this article and get it published and spread the word to a wider group of people and increase donations and awareness.
Contacting ‘Edgbaston Gem’, I was shocked but overwhelmed to hear that they would publish the article in their upcoming magazine.
To see my name in print gave me such a sense of achievements and pride. It was very surreal and this was the first time that I had a view of a career as a journalist.
I was already so pleased and I felt a great deal of pride with this achievement, but the achievement intensified when I got a message from a friend to say, upon reading my article, they donated to the charity.
If the article reached this friend and caused them to donate, I wonder how many other people my article reached.
It was truly a time within the fundraising committee that I was proud of. It was also the time, where I realised, with a great deal of time and effort, I could actually be a successful journalist.
As well as continuing to write articles on behalf of the charity and make my way as an aspiring journalist,
I also tried to try out using my media knowledge and experience from different angles. One of these angles was creating a video for the charity as part of one of my assignments at college.
Describing the charity and its importance to the other members of the group I was working with, I contacted volunteers and members of the committee to see if they’d be interested in taking part and appearing in the video, which they were more than happy to do.
Watching the video after it was finished, I was really pleased with the result. I feel that we were able to create a video which fitted the assignment brief at college and benefited the charity as a form of promotion in a new and creative way.
Through my work with the fundraising committee and doing my own fundraising, I had my eyes opened even further to the amount of dedication that goes into every bit of work that the volunteers and committees but into the charity. I was pleased about everything I was able to do for the charity.
I loved every single end I was with the charity, first as a participant and then as part of the fundraising committee.
I have created strong friendship groups that are still strong to this day. I also have some fantastic memories, that I will never forget for the rest of my life.
Birmingham PHAB Camps have made such an impact on my life. It has shown me that my disability is not a barrier and that anything is possible as long as I apply myself and plough forward and enjoy everything I do.