OTW through a lens – a volunteer story

Andy’s daughter had been a volunteer for Over The Wall at a number of camps over a period of five years. She had told him so many wonderful things about volunteering, that at the age of 55, he decided he would experience it for himself and signed up to volunteer at a Health Challenge camp in 2018.

“My biggest concern was that camp would be full of youngsters my daughter’s age,” explains Andy, “I was worried that I would seem out of place, being an older volunteer – but it wasn’t like that in the slightest. My daughter explained to me that Over The Wall need a diverse range of backgrounds, age groups and ethnicity, so I made the choice and signed up. I am so glad I did – I had the most amazing time. I ended up volunteering at two camps last year!”

Becoming a Camp Recorder

As a professional photographer, Andy volunteered as a Camp Recorder, helping to capture images of each child’s experience at camp. “It feels great being able to bring a skill to camp – and I thoroughly enjoy capturing those camp moments, but I was also glad that I wasn’t just a photographer and was able to be involved, supporting campers throughout lots of different activities and experiences. It’s one of the most humbling things, to see the children overcome their challenges – whilst having the greatest time.”

“Volunteering is about knowing what you need to do, to make sure that the campers have the best time. I think that a diverse range of age groups, really helps with that, because some children may be drawn to a fatherly or motherly figure, whereas others might bond with a younger person. Offering a good balance of people is very important.”

“Also, being a slightly older volunteer means you have a great deal more life experience than others – so if a camper is homesick and you’ve been a parent- or a grandparent – it’s likely you might be well equipped to support that camper.”

“I remember taking photographs from the climbing wall – and a camper telling me he had attempted the wall last year – but only made it half way. When he got to the same point, he showed signs that he was really struggling – then he found something inside himself, and persevered and got to the top. The look on his face was fantastic, it was like he had made it to the moon. He was so pleased. As a photographer, capturing that moment was a great moment.”

Bringing camp home

After camp, Andy, his daughter and her partner (who had also volunteered), returned to Andy’s home and found themselves talking about camp and the wonder of the experience. “We couldn’t leave camp behind.” adds Andy. “It was like we had brought it home, we were all still so energised- my wife couldn’t believe it and, in the end, after seeing us all she agreed that she would volunteer too! She now plans on joining us in 2019!”

“Camp is one of the most powerful things I’ve ever done, and it is so rewarding. In fact, it’s so rewarding you almost feel guilty. It feels like it should just be the children that are getting all the enjoyment and fun out of this- not the volunteers! Seeing how much fun the campers are having and knowing you have been a part of that whole process is quite a feeling.”

Find out more about volunteering for OTW here.