Christchurch Botanic Gardens were highlights of the first day. By bedtime it seemed the companions were much more ready for sleep than the campers, which led to a very long night for some. This was when we learned why my camper was called “a runner”. Throughout the night, he managed to get out of bed and escape down the hallway in order to cause all sorts of mischief. By the seventh time, he had cleverly devised a path to manoeuvre around both my partner and I to escape. We found him wearing a massive grin because he had outsmarted his companions. One of the biggest challenges I faced was learning to communicate with my camper, as he had very limited verbal communication abilities. He communicated mainly through sign language, which meant I had to adapt in order for it to be a successful weekend. At the start of the camp, every conversation felt like a game of charades, where I could never quite get the right answer. By Sunday afternoon, however, I was becoming quite good at interpreting sign language and had even picked up a few phrases to throw back at him and, in turn, he had begun to use more verbal communication in order to make understanding a lot simpler for me. In a way, both of us had stepped outside of our comfort zones. By the second day, everyone had settled in, which led to it running a lot more smoothly. Day two started with a trip around the central city on the Christchurch Tram, followed by a visit from magician and entertainer Melanie Poppins. Many of the campers’ favourite time of day was lunchtime, as there was absolutely no shortage of food to fill their seemingly bottomless stomachs. Some of the campers had very specific dietary requirements, but a common treat for everyone was the hot chips that were served with every meal. Swimming was something
the campers had been talking about since their arrival at the camp, as water was a place where many of the campers with physical disabilities were able to move around and play more freely than was usually possible. Splashes, smiles and laughter of not only the campers, but also their companions filled the building, with everyone enjoying their time in the pool. After drying off, the campers traded wet swimming togs for superhero costumes, as it was time for the themed disco. Many of the more outgoing campers immediately seized the chance to show off and show up us older people on the dance floor,
but my camper was much more reserved and spent the first half just sitting and watching – sussing out the competition I assumed. After a lot of encouragement, we finally managed to get him up and dancing, and we could tell by his ear-to-ear grin that it was definitely worth the wait. The second night went much more smoothly than the first, with all the campers absolutely exhausted from the day’s activities – or possibly from keeping their companions up the night before. When the sun came up in the morning we couldn’t believe we hadn’t had to thwart any midnight jailbreaks.
Christ’s College Canterbury
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