Being a helper at Explorers is a unique experience – you won’t have done anything quite like it before and the memories and lessons you learn on camp will stay with you for a long time to come.
For both helpers and campers, a week at Explorers is very demanding but it is also highly rewarding. It is quite an intensive experience, as you will be with, and caring for, another person almost continually from waking to going to sleep. It’s not all work though, and there are people to help – always ask if you are unsure! It is our aim for every participant, helpers and campers, to have a memorable, positive, challenging, and special week.
Medically speaking, disabled campers may have a variety of conditions – previously this has included Cerebral Palsy, Spina Bifida and various motor difficulties as well as Autism Spectrum Disorder, Sensory Impairments, Down Syndrome and Learning Difficulties. These conditions may affect any aspect of a camper’s life, including mobility and dexterity, speech and, in some cases, continence. Helpers are enabled to care for “their” camper, and plenty of adults are available if more advice (or muscle!) is needed. Any training you might need in equipment or manual handling (for example) will be given at camp and can be recapped at any time.
For most helpers, Explorers will be the first time they have experienced enabling someone and assisting them with their personal care, and that can be quite daunting. However, it is important to remember that for a camper who needs assistance that will be something that they do every day. Be sure to ask what your camper needs and listen to their answers – remember, your camper is the most experienced person in their care!
During the week you will probably do something that you have never done before (in fact, we really hope that you do!) and that could be one of our adventurous activities, doing the washing up (!) or perhaps a part of personal care. The aspects of care that you learn about will depend on who you are buddied up with and what care needs they have.
We do know however that lots of helpers are worried about these practical aspects of camp and want to have some idea before they come – we can only give you a flavour of what this might include. Physically, you may be asked to help move or transfer someone – this could be using a hoist to lift someone, it could also mean supporting someone to stand up, balance, and move their own weight. Some campers may have medication, tube feeds or overnight equipment – you will learn how this works under guidance from our camp nurse, Sarah, and she will support you to manage this.
For some of our campers, little or no physical help will be needed. You might support someone by prompting them to join you in brushing your teeth together, by helping them to access the visual timetable of what activities are on offer, by forming a friendship and enjoying activities together… it really is a challenge as unique as you both are individuals.
We have several on-site adventurous activities, one of the most popular of which is the outdoor swimming pool. There is a fully-accessible changing block with hoists, showers, and toilets and there are always staff on duty at the pool to assist those who need hoisting in and out of the pool. This is the same with the wheelchair swing and aerial runway. You may also find that you learn to do things in a week at Explorers that you find familiar but learn to do differently – for example, changing an incontinence pad, feeding someone, or helping someone to shower or dress on a bed. The most important skill is listening and asking when you need help – and you may find you learn some different methods of communication too – be that signing, head-spelling, or using a communication book or machine.
For the campers, the valuable parts of the week are often being with able-bodied contemporaries (rather than adult carers) and other disabled friends, getting to know each other, and taking part in the same chores and activities. It may take a camper 10 minutes (or more!) to butter a slice of bread, but her sense of achievement could be immeasurable. Try to be patient if you find an activity easy and also be creative – we aim to choose activities that are accessible to everyone on camp and there is always another level to a challenge, whether that be taking on a new approach yourself or working out just how to flip bacon or raise the flag with someone who cannot readily use their hands. We hope that taking part together will bring great enjoyment, and it is in these shared experiences that people tell us they make the strongest memories and friendships.
Helpers are a very important part of camp and we value everything that you do for us. If you have a problem, you can always talk to your patrol leader, our camp leader Janet, or any staff member. We can resolve most difficulties quite simply, so it’s always best to have a word. Taking care of yourself at Explorers is just as important as looking after your buddy and new friends. It’s easy to get very tired at Explorers, so we build in a “rest hour” after lunch – do take advantage of this. It can also be very intense being with the same person on such an intimate level for so much time – and that goes both ways! Taking time to be with other friends and experience different parts of camp can help you both to get some space and a fresh dose of calm and patience as the week goes on.
We want Explorers to be a positive and unforgettable experience for all our helpers and campers. If you are unsure about something or are told something that worries you, please speak to one of our staff members. They will always be able to offer a listening ear and try their best to offer support and advice, and if possible a solution.