After an accident left me with some mobility issues, I felt a strong desire to support people with disabilities. Since then I have worked and volunteered with adults and young people with physical and learning disabilities. Volunteering on a Sense Holiday was an incredible experience.
I’ve volunteered on two Sense short breaks and supported the same young man, Jay, on both occasions. Jay has complex communication needs. He expresses himself and makes choices using picture cards, gestures and facial expressions. When I met Jay, it was the first time he had ever been on a holiday without his family.
We had adventures at an activity centre, and then on our second break, we explored the countryside together. On our holidays Jay and I have built rafts, made a campfire, had a go at rock climbing, made lots of noise during a drumming workshop, and splashed about in the hydro pool. I loved seeing Jay enjoying himself and being involved in activities. At the end of the breaks, Jay’s family always tell me what a difference the respite has made to them.
Jay does not use speech to communicate, so through supporting him, I have learnt that body language and eye contact are very important ways to show emotions. Supporting Jay over two holidays meant that we could make a connection and I could understand the small signals he used to tell me how he was feeling or what he wanted to do. After the break I was told that Jay still loves to look through his holiday diaries and recognises pictures of himself doing all the different activities.
As well as getting to know Jay it’s been great connecting with other volunteers. We all really bonded as a team, meeting at the training day, on the break and afterwards, sharing great memories. I’m volunteering again this summer, and I’m really looking forward to being someone’s holiday buddy and being part of another fantastic team.
I would definitely encourage others to volunteer on a Sense Holiday, as you will meet a great variety of volunteers who you will develop strong bonds with, have great leaders to support you in all stages of the break and also to see the benefits not only to the person you are paired with but their families who have to support their child 24/7.
A few days respite may be a real lifeline, as they need to recharge their batteries, and like with Jay, it might be the first time their child has been away from home without them.
Join us this summer, volunteer on a Sense Holiday and create a fantastic time and lasting memories for disabled children, young people or adults.