The DeafBlind International Outdoor Network exists to create unique and exciting opportunities for people with deafblindness to explore and enjoy all aspects of outdoor living. This year’s annual gathering took place near Aalborg, Northern Denmark.
These holidays bring people with deafblindness, their support staff and families together from across Europe and this year’s event attracted people from Norway, Denmark, Holland, Sweden, Scotland and England. Our group from Sense was 15 strong, consisting of six adults with deafblindness and nine people supporting.
Overall, the trip was a wonderful experience for all involved. We overcame delayed flights and a missed fishing trip in the North Sea, but there were many moments of magic and happiness.
That first night we all helped prepare the food, old friends from previous Outdoor Network gatherings were re-acquainted and new friendships were forged, a lovely atmosphere immediately took hold.
As our fish cooked in foil parcels, the smells coming from the smoky fires were incredible. The reaction of those we were supporting, as they sat around the fires smelling the feast being prepared, was a joy to behold.
Warren and Terry helped to bake flat bread. They prepared the dough and it was cooked over open fires using special long handled pans. We enjoyed several more outdoor dining experiences that week, but I’m sure that particular meal will live long in all of our memories.
One of the great joys of meeting up with people from other countries – who understand and are familiar with sensory impairments – is that everyone quite naturally blends in together. There is a real sense of co-operation. People want to help each other, and we are comforted in the knowledge that we are amongst people showing and sharing kindness, tolerance and understanding.
The participants really picked up on this, so very quickly a group mentality takes over with us all assisting where necessary, and the atmosphere is harmonious, safe and positive.
For the rest of our stay, the support team and people with sensory impairments enjoyed a whole series of adventures. These included some lengthy rambles through fields and forests, along streams and to the beach. We foraged for food along the way, collecting wild ingredients in baskets which were then added to our outdoor cooked meals. Two local Danish experts accompanied us and helped identify the leaves, plants, fruits and fungi that we collected.
Everywhere we went there was always the comfort of a fire on the go. The natural beauty of the surrounding countryside and its appeal to the senses had a positive effect on us all.
We travelled on horse-drawn carriages through the woodlands, and again the joy on Rahan and Arfat’s faces as they experienced the movement and sensory engagement, touched everybody.
We were never far from the sea, so bracing walks along the beach were followed by time to relax and enjoy our surroundings. On one walk, we crossed a stream over a wooden bridge. Many of us took the opportunity to take our shoes & socks off for a very refreshing paddle in the (ice cold) water!
One evening we dined at a local restaurant and enjoyed a live band that got most of us up dancing. There was a swimming trip too, and an opportunity to make fresh juice from apples scrumped from the orchard.
There was continuous signing all week, so everyone learned more as we went along, and people’s confidence in their own abilities to communicate noticeably improved.
On our final day, we took a trip into the city of Aalborg, to walk along the river, take in the sights and explore, before heading back to the airport.
There was some sadness when saying farewell, but also an absolute determination that what we had experienced that week was so good, and so special, we all agreed that these Outdoor Network annual gatherings definitely need to continue.
Collectively, we had experienced so much throughout the whole adventure. I look forward to next year’s DBI Outdoor Network week, which will take place in Norway in September 2018.
Find out about Sense Wellbeing – arts and sporting activities to enhance wellbeing and quality of life for disabled people with complex communication needs.