Setting up camp at Over the Wall

Posted on August 18, 2016 by Lisa Hammerton

Simplyhealth blog - over the wallHelping people make the most of life is our sole purpose and giving back is a huge part of that. In 2015 we were able to donate £1.6 million to charitable causes, touching the lives of nearly 825,000 people across the UK. Over the Wall was one of the charities we supported.

Over The Wall is a national UK children's charity that provide free of charge camps throughout the UK to children with life-limiting illnesses and their families. Our donation of £68,065 funded a Volunteer Co-ordinator for three years to help facilitate the camps.

Through the 200 volunteer days we offer to our employees, a group of them recently helped set up a Health Challenge Camp in Dorset. This was a five night residential camp for children and teenagers aged eight to 17 years who are experiencing or recovering from serious health challenges.  Lisane Harris gives an account of the day:

Lisane:

We met the team at their Dorset camp which was held at Bryanston school, a stunning location where they use the facilities for the week before packing up and moving to their next location.

As they do not own the locations they have a short time period to unpack and get everything set up in the next location.

We helped unload the lorry of pallets (which included medical equipment, lockers, t-shirts and lanyards, games, stationery and food) and distribute them to the required places around the camp. This included sorting and organising welcome packs for each of the campers. As part of their pack they receive a box which they can keep their Over The Wall memories in.

A team from GlaxoSmithKline also attended on the day which was fortunate as many hands make light work and there was so much to do!

Whilst there we learnt a lot about the behind the scenes work that makes these camps a possibility and it really blew our minds. Everything is coordinated exceptionally well. They have twice as many volunteers as campers for the safety of the children as well as the volunteers. They accept children with various life-limiting illnesses so they have to have lots of doctors and nurses on site. All the medicinal staff are also volunteering their free time.

I'm so glad that we were able to help set up the camps so that the children can have a wonderful time!

Paul Jeans had the opportunity to visit the camp, set up by Lisane and the team:

When the opportunity to visit a Health Challenge Camp arose, I jumped at the chance. I've had a keen interest and been involved with charitable projects for over 20 years, but this was something completely different to what I have ever seen before.
Most of the 60 children at the camp had one of a range of life-limiting illnesses. I saw many take part in different activities during the day such as wall climbing, art and design and woodwork.

What really stood out to me was how the volunteers (particularly the medical staff) take away the clinical element and don't talk about the children's conditions. They make the camps fun, like a holiday! Medical centres are decorated in different themes, such as a beach hut and instead of visiting the 'doctor' they'd see a 'lifeguard', who also looked the part in their red t-shirts.

Lunchtime really was an eye opener. Everyone sings songs, complete with movements. One team starts to sing a song, then on reaching the chorus, invites the next table to join in¿  culminating in all eight tables of children, volunteers and staff standing and joining in - including our visitor table! It really was something quite special to witness.
I was so impressed with the work this charity does, plus the amazing volunteers and to see the enjoyment the children get from the camp that I am now enrolling into the volunteer programme. I intend to take a week of my leave next year and help so I too can help those children 'Climb up that Sunshine Mountain' (the song everyone sang at lunchtime!).

It was a really great day; humbling, inspiring, very emotional but overall an amazing experience to see how the lives of people with special needs can be made better.

To find out more about Over The Wall visit www.otw.org.uk.

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