A love of music connected Michael and volunteer James on a Sense Holiday

Whilst I was studying for my A-Levels, I decided to gain some extra experience volunteering on a Sense Holiday. It seemed like a great way to achieve my Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award. But I never imagined I’d come away with the experience, memories and bond I developed with Michael, the young man I supported. Looking back, it was through a mutual love of music that enabled me and Michael to connect and communicate.

Before the Sense Short Break, I hadn’t been involved with the charity, and I’d never supported people with complex communication needs. I must say, the excellent training and support from the Sense Holiday leaders allowed me to not only effectively support young people on the trip, but really enjoy myself too.

Meeting Michael for the first time

On the first day I was introduced to Michael, who I would be supporting throughout the break. My first impression of him was that he was very shy; our first interactions were somewhat one-sided and I will confess that I felt slightly unhelpful.

However, we spent the first afternoon bonding as a pair whilst going on a walk around the woods. The moment that will always stand out for me was whilst I was trying to encourage Michael to try the outdoor drums, and he started singing into the drumstick.

Afterwards, we spent time singing and acting out the X-Factor on these drumsticks as other members of the group watched. Over the next few days our friendship really developed and we spent most hours of the day singing out loud: I learnt a lot about Michael’s musical tastes.

We connected through our love of music

Two smiling men standing outside in the park holding microphones

Music linked the week together in my mind, as many members of our group liked music and Michael and myself loved it. In a music session Michael was given a set of xylophone keys. The rest of us were given bells. I watched as Michael did a short solo on these keys, and then he stopped and pointed to me, so I rang the bell once, then he played again. It turned into a call and response where Michael pointed to other members of the group to ring their bells too, until everyone was doing it!

Two smiling men standing outside in the park holding microphones

Clearly Michael enjoyed interacting with other members of the group and getting the chance to lead us whilst producing music. The atmosphere in the room was amazing, with everyone getting involved and laughing as we played this song of Michael’s creation.

There were so many brilliant moments from this holiday that I experienced with Michael, but the last one that I will talk about happened at our day out to Thomley.

We were visiting their outdoor castle playground; it was here that Michael covered his eyes and started to count, which I didn’t at first understand. I came to realize that he was playing hide and seek: so we all joined in. To see Michael calling people out by name and interacting with us all in a new space with new people was great, but more importantly, it was brilliant to see us all having fun.

As a Sense Holiday and Short Break volunteer, you’ll meet new people, try new challenges, explore new ways of communicating and visit new places – all whilst supporting disabled people to enjoy these experiences, too. If this sounds like your kind of holiday, then why not join us this year and become a Sense Holiday volunteer.


Author: James

James volunteered on a Sense Short Break. He is studying for his A-Levels and volunteered to gain experience for his Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award.

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