There’s nothing quite like the great British countryside. Fresh air, green grass and generous quantities of tea make the UK holiday experience something quite special. It is more than flip flops, food and factor 50. It’s a time to take a breather and focus on our physical, emotional and mental wellbeing. What makes Jack special was his decision to use his holiday to focus on the wellbeing of others; and he wouldn’t trade the experience for all the tea in Yorkshire.
Deciding to support someone on holiday who is deafblind or has complex disabilities wasn’t something Jack took lightly. He felt the all too natural pang of apprehension when he submitted the application form to volunteer for a Sense Holiday. Questions like ‘What if I can’t do this?’ and ‘What if something goes wrong?’ passed through his head but, his steadfast desire to help people held strong. Little did he know the true impact of his decision.
Jack studied history at university and works in a museum where he meets people from all walks of life. He’s fascinated by the children’s natural curiosity when they visit. With children, he knows that actions speak louder than words.
This experience gave Jack a good foundation for developing relationships with the people that Sense supports – but the rest of it was all new to him as he’d never before worked with people who were deafblind or had complex disabilities.
He sailed through the training that all Sense volunteers undertake, and had all his questions answered by the fantastic Sense Holidays and Short Breaks Team who were with him every step of the way.
Meanwhile, in 2017, a young man called Jai was preparing to go on his first Sense Holiday. Jai, 12, is an incredible young man who has been supported by Sense ever since he was diagnosed with Alstrom Syndrome in 2015. With his love of football, police TV shows and spending time with the ‘guys’ it was a clear choice for Jack to be paired with him.
Alstrom Syndrome is one of the rarest genetic diseases in the world and has a number of different symptoms including heart failure, light sensitivity, learning disabilities, hearing loss, obesity and Type 2 Diabetes.
It’s been a tough journey for his mum, Pam, to raise him, and also care for her dad. There are members of her close family and friends that she can rely on for support, but she’s mostly running the show by herself.
Jack and Jai meet up
Sometimes, it takes a little while for people to feel comfortable in each other’s company when they first meet up, but it didn’t take long for Jai and Jack.
There were lots of amazing activities to try on a Sense Holiday for the dynamic duo; the problem wasn’t what activities they would like, but rather if they’d have time to do them all. Jack kept his nerves and feet steady as he took Jai ice skating and Jai talked football with Jack at any given opportunity.
One afternoon, while the rest of the group relaxed, Jai, Jack and a fellow volunteer decided to go and play mini golf. Jai immediately got into the swing of things (pun intended) and scored a hole-in-one. Jack’s competitive nature didn’t get the better of him as they both celebrated!
There is a lot that separates these few days from the average holiday. Jai’s weeks are punctuated with hospital visits and health issues. The Sense Holiday provided space for those ongoing issues not to be at the forefront of his life. For once, Jai’s only aim was to socialise and have fun – and to do that with a positive male role model, like Jack, was an added bonus.
It was also great for Jack who was spending his time in a supportive environment where he could develop skills, which could then be used in his personal and professional life. Jack could develop his patience, communication, leadership and pizza making skills.
As for Pam, she was finally able to sleep. These few days gave her time to recharge her batteries and take some time out for herself. Caring for Jai, while she wouldn’t change it for the world, is a full time job, which she balances with also caring for her father. Jai being on a Sense Holiday gives Pam time to see friends, watch a movie or have a lie in. Things most people take for granted, she only gets once a year. It’s like Christmas in the summertime.
A tough break – and welcome news
Life became more difficult two years ago when Pam noticed Jai was more lethargic and rapidly losing weight. After more time in the hospital, Jai received his second diagnosis. It was leukaemia. This was a very tough time for the family but Jai and Pam fought on side by side.
With everything that was going on, a holiday was the last thing on their minds. But fortunately for them, the wheels were again in motion and the letter that Jai was to go on another Sense Holiday gave both of them some much needed good news. And it was about to get better.
He and Jack were to be reunited on a Sense Holiday 2018!
Pam wasn’t convinced, with everything that had happened, that Jai would remember Jack. Even Jack was unsure that Jai would remember him, but he signed up anyway with the hope that they’d be paired once again. After all the training, he got the news that he would indeed be supporting Jai. When they met, there was a moment’s hesitation. But only a moment. It was like no time had passed between them. Jai, Pam and Jack became connected though Sense in a positive way, proving that life is better when we are all connected.
If you or anyone you know would be interested in volunteering on our 2019 breaks, get in touch with us!