I remember the moment really well. It was two years ago and I was sat around a campfire in Tversted, Denmark, with colleagues and newfound friends from across northern Europe. We were coming to the end of the 2014 Deafblind International Outdoor Network adventure holiday – and the subject of the next holiday came up. With a degree of trepidation, knowing what it would involve, I volunteered to host and organise it in England – and what a week it turned out to be.
I was determined that 2016 would be something memorable; a really special event. The trip to Denmark had been fantastic, as had previous trips with deafblind people to Norway and Scotland, and I felt a personal responsibility to make our event as good as we possibly could.
Location, location, location
The Calvert Trust Activity Centre on Exmoor, Devon, ticked all of the boxes. It had the expertise and facilities we needed to host the event – plus it was in a beautiful setting. We held a Sense holiday at the centre in 2015 and that gave me the confidence to go for it.
One of the really gratifying things was that we filled the holiday way in advance. It was then a case of getting our heads down, preparing for September, and making sure it ran as smoothly as possible.
There were many things to organise. The logistics of dealing with people arriving from different countries, transport issues, many emails and a mass of information to share.
A warm welcome
On Monday 12 September, deafblind holidaymakers and support staff descended on us from Scotland, Denmark, Holland, Sweden and Norway, as well as people arriving from all over England.
We wanted to give them as warm and friendly a welcome as possible. It was my aim to make sure no one felt alienated, isolated or not part of the gang.
There were some deafblind people who had only one care support staff with them for the entire week, and I was particularly determined to offer support and help them to feel included.
Sixty people came together and, without exception, everyone loved it.
We took part in a wide range of activities, including horse riding, cycling, canoeing, crate-stacking, abseiling and zip wire. Groups went out into the woods to try bush craft and forestry skills, lighting fires, making popcorn, toasting marshmallows – The reactions and responses were incredible to see, and it became clear to me that something special was taking place. All the support staff were amazingly positive throughout – which was crucial to our success.
Meal times were joyous occasions, as people recounted their experiences from their latest adventure, the place was buzzing with excitement, and the sense of personal achievements being made was very real.
A Sense of pride
When I look back on the week, I still feel so many emotions. In particular, I feel proud that we created special memories and developed friendships, made links and laid the foundation for hopefully many more of these events.
On a personal level, organising the holiday involved a fair amount of additional work on top of what I do normally – but it was time well spent and absolutely worth it.
I recently contacted everybody involved to express my heartfelt thanks. In response I received a flood of emails, texts and cards giving the holiday an overwhelming thumbs-up. People described it as magical, and told me that memories and friendships were made that will last a lifetime.
Watch the video on the embedded player below or view the video on YouTube.