Camp Abilities is part of a positive change in people’s lives; you can be part of that change. If you are reading this, you are halfway there. Get involved in the magic that is Camp Abilities – there is no doubt in my mind you will enjoy every minute of it….. Sarah Banville, Campabilities Volunteer (CARA) 2017

Out of a group of seven who travelled from Waterford to volunteer at Camp last year, we are all applying again for 2018, and more of our friends and colleagues are applying also because they know how much we got from it.

Kids – together having fun. In everyday life, this option may not always be available for kids with vision impairments. Some find it hard to make friends or participate in sport because the option simply is not there for them. At Camp Abilities, kids with vision impairments are given back their childhood. In the raft building, it was a typical domino effect. Once one person wants to do it, all the campers take an interest. They just need encouragement. A gentle push to get that little bit extra out of their activities.

The best thing about this is that I had just previously built a raft a few weeks prior to going to Camp Abilities. A college trip away to the Burren Outdoor Education Centre in County Clare taught me a few things. One of them was how cold the water is out West! That raft did not sail too far as, only ten yards away from the shore, we found ourselves wet, cold and miserable when our raft completely fell apart and we had to carry it back to land in numerous pieces.

Camp Abilities was different! The campers took their time. They did not care how long it took them to build the raft. However, they did want to get to use it in the water. Communication, teamwork, patience and fun; within less than half an hour, the raft was built! By the campers! The Caras (volunteers) only helped when requested. We helped with problem-solving, double-checking the knots were tight enough and with the lifting of heavier objects. Thanks to the efforts of a group of seven campers and four Caras, the raft was ready for action. The raft needed six people. Two of the campers decided they wanted to stay on the land and cheer the others on, so the team was down to five and, out of the other three Caras, I was somehow the one who was chosen to be the sixth member. Happily enough, I accepted the offer, thinking I would stay someway dry and not too cold.

We launched the raft into the water and jumped on. We worked out a rhythm of paddling and made it to the far banks, confidently singing ‘Rock the Boat’ along the way. The campers were so happy their raft was successful. We decided to turn around the raft and head back to shore. On the way back, I told the campers about the story of my previous disastrous raft building experience. I jokingly suggested I would jump into the water to see if the temperature is as cold in Kerry as it is in Clare. Big mistake! The campers laughed and were very amused by the idea, but I told them again I was joking and was not going to do it. They were not taking “no” for an answer though, and were ready to laugh at me as I prepared to dive in or eat my words, until the campers said: “Wait. If you do it, we’ll do it!”

I couldn’t believe that they were volunteering to jump into cold water after building a raft to stay out of the water, but the campers decided they didn’t want me to do it alone. With that, we stood together on the raft and jumped into the water as a team. For me, this experience summed up what Camp Abilities is about.

Whether you are looking to start volunteering or you have volunteered before, apply to volunteer for Camp Abilities and bring your skills to the table. I volunteered with no prior experience specific to people with vision impairments.

From volunteering for Camp Abilities Ireland in 2017, I got the opportunity to travel to volunteer at Camp Abilities in Portugal! This was a fantastic experience for me and I learned so much from it. A lovely take home quote I brought with me back to Ireland, “Os amigos vêem-se com o coração” which translates to “Friends see each other with their hearts”.
I am even writing my Thesis on “The Socialisation of Elite Athletes with Vision Impairments in Ireland” and finally I have found a career path that I would more than happily pursue in the morning if I could.

Apply to Volunteer at Camp Abilities at the following link: https://caracentre.ie/camp-abilities-volunteer/