Our Tower Hamlets Summer Holiday Club ran through August and allowed children and young people aged 5-17 with a range of complex disabilities, including dual sensory loss, to take part in a range of activities, that otherwise would not be accessible to them.
Whilst volunteering for the final days, I took time out to ask holiday leader Claire Farris her thoughts on the Holiday Club, the successes and challenges that she encountered.
What took place over the three weeks?
We had a wide range of activities over the three weeks, each day we had four sessions and each session had a different focus of physical development, creativity, sensory exploration, technology or life skills. Some of the sessions were with external visitors, such as the Fire brigade, a Music Therapist and a Samba drummer. As all the children enjoyed Music, it turned into a very musical summer, with lots of singing along moments between sessions.
How do you feel the Summer Holiday Club went overall?
We had a fantastic time, not only did the children and young people enjoy themselves but so did the staff and volunteers. Although I was really busy, I made sure I took time to stop and look around me every now and again, and it was great to see that every time I looked around I saw happy smiling faces.
Did everything go to plan?
You always need a plan to be able to change it! Overall everything went even better than planned and that was down to the staff and volunteers being so adaptable and flexible. There will always be hiccups during a holiday club but when we did have little issues, such as all the children arriving 1.5 hours late one morning, or a musician not arriving for a concert, we dealt with it, we rescheduled the day or came up with an alternative activity.
What challenges did you encounter?
I think one of the biggest challenges was that the group of children and young people was so diverse, the youngest was 5 years old and the oldest was 17 years old, we split into 2 groups so the activities could be made more age appropriate for each group, but not only was the group diverse in age but also in abilities and needs. When planning the activities we had to think about each individual and make sure all activities were accessible to everyone. With the careful planning we managed it; there was always something for everyone to do.
What was it like working with volunteers?
Before the Holiday Club I was nervous of working with volunteers, my biggest concern was that after the first day they would find it too hard work and not turn up on the second day! I’m glad to say I was proven wrong, in fact it was the complete opposite, and volunteers were enjoying it so much they were offering to help out on more days. The majority of the volunteers were new to working with children with sensory impairments or special educational needs and disabilities, but they were all so keen to learn and really spent time to get to know the child they were working with that they built up great friendships with the children and young people so quickly.
What is your favourite memory of the Holiday Club?
There were so many magical moments throughout the holiday club, it’s hard to choose. I think the most memorable moments are generally the messy times! Getting covered head to foot in crazy foam, seeing children elbow deep in gloopy cornflour or creating sticky coke explosions by adding mints.