Last week, I volunteered for three days at a camp for kids with disabilities. Growing up with a brother who has Down Syndrome and a mum who works in Special Education, I vaguely knew what to expect, challenges wise.
What I didn’t expect, however, was how much pride and enjoyment the kids would get out of it. The laughter and smiles and absolute joy I saw in those kids during the camp would be pretty hard pressed to be rivalled. As would their shuffling skills during the disco – they certainly put us vols to shame!
We were each buddied up with a kid who became our responsibility for the duration of the camp. My little guy was named Jared, and he is one of the most determined people I have ever met. He persevered and persevered, never giving up until he reached his goals, whether that be reaching the top of the rock climbing wall, or shooting baskets from half court. And although I may have had to remind him a few times that kayaks are for paddling. Not pushing people into the water, he was a brilliant buddy.
I didn’t just learn lots from the kids, however, the other twenty four volunteers were such an interesting mix of people and stories. After we put the kids to bed we were allowed to say up and hang out, and the conversation was fascinating. I wouldn’t necessarily have spoken to some of the vols had we been at school together, but as life continues to teach me, we can’t judge people on first impressions, and everyone has something to teach us. From the vol who at my age was on deployment in East Timor, to the girls younger than me who dedicated their free time to volunteering, the stories people had to tell were fascinating.
I had the best time on the camp, even if I did have to leave my beloved phone and Internet at home. My life lately has been teaching me the values of patience and appreciation of the life I get to live. Helping people is the best feeling ever, and I can’t wait to have more learning experiences like it.