One of the most heart-warming aspects of camp, is seeing children forge new friendships whilst helping each other to overcome challenges, creating lasting memories.
Elsy and Olivia are two young campers that met at OTW’s Allergy Camp – and have since become ‘life-long friends’. It’s a year after they attended camp and the girls’ friendship has remained strong as they still stay in close contact with each other. The strength of their friendship has even created a lasting bond between both of their families, who now visit each other regularly.
A childhood with a health challenge
Nine-year-old Olivia has multiple complex allergies, as well as eczema and asthma, all of which trigger other health problems including gastrointestinal issues. Olivia’s health condition has caused many limitations in her childhood, especially in terms of her social development and school life. For example, at school meal times Olivia is segregated and eats separately from all the other children.
“Unfortunately, children tend to be less affectionate towards Olivia due to the stigma attached to her condition.” says Olivia’s mum, Emily. “There is a threat associated with Olivia’s allergies, so children often have the tendency to detach themselves, and this has caused Olivia to really struggle at school.”
Like Olivia, Elsy, aged twelve, also has allergies to 27 different food products, all of which could also be triggered by touch, as well as airborne allergies, asthma and eczema. This also impacted Elsy’s social development in and out of school.
“For Elsy, everyday activities have been a struggle.” Explains Elsy’s mum, Lisa. “I remember when she wanted to try ballet at a local dance school – which we were very keen for her to do. I asked the organiser if there was any chance that the other children could wash their hands before starting, but they were unable to help, so Elsy simply couldn’t join in. She really has had to miss out on many things.”
It was during an allergy family camp that Olivia and Elsy met – and immediately formed a special friendship. After camp, both parents saw huge changes in the behaviour of their children. “It literally brings us to tears when the girls are together.” explains Emily. “In fact, we have developed such a strong friendship with Elsy’s family that we even spent time with them during the Christmas period.”
“Camp is the best thing that ever happened for Olivia. It really changed her for the better.
Before camp, she was struggling with school – her confidence was low and she needed a pep talk nearly every morning before we left. She was struggling with the whole social aspect of it. After camp, I looked at her and thought –‘you are becoming confident’. If I’m honest- I still can’t get over how amazing camp has been for Olivia.”
Elsy’s mum, Lisa also felt that camp, and the friendships Elsy made there, enabled her to recapture a part of her life that illness took. She explains:
“We were never able to take Elsy to many places. For example, she couldn’t be that child at the soft play centre, where she could run riot, and join in, jumping in ball pits, because of the foods and other potential allergens she could make contact with. Taking her somewhere like that could simply change her life forever, but Over The Wall allowed us to regain some of that time and enabled Elsy to reclaim a part of her childhood.”
“Most importantly, camp introduced us to Olivia and her family, and they have now become our friends for life. Not only do we socialise together, but the girls are also really supportive of each other.”
“If it wasn’t for Over The Wall, our paths never would have crossed, and things would have been very different for us all.”