What a way to end a successful year of camping. On 2nd October, we took the children from Athlone school for the blind on a magical camp. Many of these children had camped with us before and the school told us they were counting the ‘sleeps’ until Friday 2nd…finally arrived. The busses arrived at the camp with 30 excited ‘beaming from ear to ear’ children. Some of the children had camped with us before and were overjoyed to be reunited with the buddies. We had 15 semi sighted and 15 totally blind children, planning a programme for this camp is always challenging. Although all visual activities and entertainment have to be crossed off the list, we try and include games and fun that sighted children enjoy….using a little bit of engenuity…The drumming as always is a great hit, and on Friday evening Camp Hope was rocking with the sound of some 40 jembi drums being pounded amongst screams and shouts of laughter. Saturday morning g dawns and the children are taken outside for the ‘boot camp session’ to warm body and soul before breakfast. Each blind child has their own buddy, who literally eats sleeps and drinks with their child for the duration of the camp. This one on one support gives the children more confidence and enables them to attempt to do things beyond their capability. That is what the camp is all about….as our camp motto states ‘in every can’t…there is a can’. Encouraging these children to go one step beyond the boundaries that they or their disability has imposed on them is often life changing. It helps them have the right attitude to their situation, to believe in themselves and find the courage to …at least try..
If they then succeed, my word, what a leap forward for them and if they don’t, they are applauded for their courage and made to feel even more special. The weather was not exactly kind to us, the ever popular slippery slide, remained unpacked and the swimming pool a no no…just too cold.
However, the cold and rain did not dampen any spirit, and improvisation was the name of the day. We had experienced buddies on this camp and they are great at ‘making a plan’ and coming up with super alternatives. We wrapped the kids up warm and took them on a walk across and alongside the river, listening to the various sounds, smelling and feeling the different plants that Koos our guide showed us, such a simple outing that most of us take for granted, the kids loved it. The recycle fashion show was as always a hit. Each team has to dress one of their sighted members in recycled items and then the fashion parade takes place…the fact that most cannot see their creation did nothing to diminish their excitement and joy as ‘their’ model paraded in front of everyone to much applause, laughter and the inevitable very loud music. The weather cleared for a short spell, so outside everyone, get ready for the races. You have to witness first hand the delight on these kids faces when they conquer the challenge of walking unaided with an egg and spoon….then the relay race and finally the three legged race with their buddy…hilarious… debatable who is having the most fun here…buddies or children….
The infamous snake show, with all the children sitting very close together in a circle, for added support, I do not believe there was one creature that was not held or touched by a child, hungry for knowledge about these reptiles, questions were plentiful. Before we knew it the time went so quickly and it was time to get ready for the team IDOLS show. The kids never seem to tire of this event, with the buddies generating excitement as each teams dresses up and performs. Tired and happy children went off to bed, whilst exhausted buddies meet up in the kitchen for hot chocolate and sharing about the day and the kids. Sunday morning our final day and the kids are already looking glum at the fact that he camp is nearly over. This is the time we need the buddies to be on top form to keep spirits high….what next surprise surprise..the bus arrives and we load the kids on board and off to Scratch Patch in Simons Town where the kids could collect ‘precious stones’ to take home. Then a walk along the boulders walk way to smell the sea and …..the penguins. Back to camp for a scrumptious lunch and the closing ceremony, oops, this is hard, so many tears from the kids as they say goodbye to their buddies, a very emotional happening. The last camp of 2015 completed……now the time is spent planning for next year, camps to be booked, a search for more vulnerable children that we can camp with, training of new buddies, new ideas and activities to be created, everything at Rainbow Dreams Trust…is a work in progress…a wonderful exciting, rewarding ..work in progress.
Thank you to all the amazing buddies who worked with us this year and to the people who gave their time love and energy to assist us. Most of all, thank you to all the courageous children, with whom we have the privilege to work with every year…you just can’t get luckier than this.