Last year in November, when I attended the deafblind camp in Perth I loved it so much I decided then and there that I wanted to go to the Melbourne one.
So I booked. I got cold feet and nearly didn’t go but then about a week or so beforehand I found my enthusiasm for it again.
Early Friday morning, February 20th, 2015 Karen along with her taxi driver picked me up a little before 4 a.m. in the morning. that’s very early for me usually and I guess for everyone else. We then proceeded on to the airport. We put our luggage on the carousel, checked in, had a cup of tea and went through security. My bag and I beeped, possibly because of my speech processors for my cochlear implant so they took me through a room and touched me all over. Nothing was found on me of course.
Then we got on to the plane. Karen who works at Senses Australia, sat next to me both on the plane and the bus. She is truly amazing.
When we arrived in Melbourne and had collected our luggage, we all got on to a bus. The bus stopped off at Flinders Station and we were all driven to Philip Island where we were to stay for the whole weekend. We arrived and were served dinner. I sat next to a lovely lady from Sydney named Irene whom I exchanged email addresses with on the bus going back to the airport.
After dinner we had announcements and I got to meet my first volunteer. Her name is Emma and she is from Adelaide. She is heaps of fun and i love her. We played a game where we chose a ball from a box. It had a character’s name on it. Mine was Judy which went with Punch so we had to go off and find our partners and chat with them for little while.
After the game was over and a very nice supper, we all went back to our units. I shared a bedroom with Linni. She was most helpful to me throughout the weekend. We chatted for a while and then went to bed.
We all got up early on Saturday morning as breakfast was at 7:30. It was a little cool in the morning but by the afternoon it had turned very hot. Linni took me to the dining room where i was met by Angela who was my volunteer for the morning. Angela got my breakfast for me which was good. The food at camp was excellent. We went for a walk after breakfast then the fun began.
I went on the giant swing. We were given instructions how to put our harnesses on. They need to be secure. The swing is a little like the flying fox but you go up higher and you swing backwards and forwards when reaching the top or how high you want to go. Then you come down again and someone is waiting for you at the end. It was a bit scary but I am happy I tried it.
Then it was back to the dining room for lunch.
Angela who is from Senses Australia in Perth was marvellous to me very patient and supportive.
In the afternoon I had Karen as my volunteer and we went to the Bush Tucker farm. Even though we didn’t have a guide I found it very interesting. Karen did an excellent job in describing the trees and bushes to me and what they were used for. she let me feel most of them. We had lovely homemade scones with jam and cream for afternoon tea. Instead of having my usual cup of tea I had a cold drink as it was very hot.
When returning back to the camp I was very busy. I had to try out a few things to wear for the disco that was to be held that night. Linni and Karen did a marvellous job of finding me more than just the plain things I had bought with me. I had a quick massage then got dressed for the bbq and disco.
I really enjoyed chatting outside whilst waiting for the bbq to be ready. The disco was marvellous, really my kind of music. I danced with a few different people. Claire who was taking photos most of the night took me to feel some of the costumes. The costumes were superb. Someone dressed up as Elvis which i thought so so neat. Someone else dressed up as a nun and Eddie from Perth was very charming.
I danced for most of the night then it was off to bed again.
On Sunday I had Linni as my volunteer and as I had been sharing a room with her I had got to know her quite well. She is lots of fun. I went on the flying fox which I just love. This one was much higher than the one I went on in Perth last year. Again someone was waiting for me at the end.
A man named Peter who is in a wheelchair went up and I really admire him and thought him very brave to do so.
The thrill and exhilaration on being on these things is a real adrenalin rush.
Then it was to fly back to my room with Karen, get packed, changed and take our bag out near the bus so that they could all be loaded on before we all charged on ourselves.
Then there was lunch and goodbyes. Before lunch people from the different states were asked to give a little speech about their experiences at camp. I was asked to represent WA which was nice but it would have been better if I had had more time to prepare it.
It was sad to leave but no doubt, I can keep in touch with some people via email. I will see the people from Senses Australia in Perth again I hope.
I went back by bus to the airport with Linni and Suzie who managed with such wonderful ease and capability. It took a while at the airport to sort everything out but we managed it all and got back to Perth safely. The staff on Qantas were superb and I have already emailed them an those from Customer Service to say thank you and how much it meant to me to have the safety instructions in braille and such friendly service.
I had a wonderful time and would do it again accept for the travel part. Even though I had wonderful help at the airport the procedure of luggage, checking in and security and getting on the plane is all a bit daunting to me.
Things I learned at the camp were to try and be more patient and mindful of other people’s needs. I learned that I am even more capable that I and others give me credit for. An example of this being it may seem a little thing to others but it really requires quite a lot of effort and organization. I have a charger for my speech processors for my cochlear implants and not once did my little battery run out. I had timed them all so perfect not once did I run out when i was doing activities or in the dining room or the like.
I met some amazing people. Some I may meet again, some I probably won’t but I will never forget them. I was a little sad that Michelle who plays the piano so well and Meredith whom I have heard a lot about didn’t come. I would have liked to meet her.
It was a wonderful camp. I always feel like i belong there and I don’t need to compete with others and it’s given me an enthusiasm for travelling.
It gave me an opportunity to be myself, to make mistakes and no one will make a big fuss about it.
The atmosphere is one of welcome and friendliness. I love that.
I could not finish this article without a few words about my wonderful volunteers. Their caring, help and availability was truly amazing. I do not have the words to thank them enough. I know they will say it’s part of their job or they love coming and wanted to do so but in all my experiences in my life I have rarely met with such personalised care. A big thank you to all of you who helped me throughout the weekend.
I want to end by saying a very big thank you to Gary and his team for organising the camp and for making us feel so welcome but I want to especially thank Gary. Let’s all now look forward to another camp next year both in Melbourne then in Perth.
Published January 6, 2016.