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Can’t wait for Siblings camp? Here’s what we learned…

Written by Rachel Burkinshaw, OTW camper parent and blogger at 7yearstodiagnosis

We’ve been counting down for a month and now we’re into the final stretch with just over two weeks to go until G attends Siblings camp for the third time – and she really can’t wait!

Following our initial applications in early January, we’d received emails to say that both G and M were on the waiting lists for their respective camps and, to be perfectly honest, I wasn’t expecting either of them to get a place this year. We know and truly appreciate just how privileged we have been for both children to have attended OTW camps twice each in the past and so from the moment those applications were sent, our fingers have been tightly crossed that both might get a place in 2019.

Since the first OTW camp that G attended, we have seen first-hand what a difference the camps can make to the children, young people and families who go to them. When G came home from her first Siblings camp, she was a different child to the one who had left us just five days before. The time spent with others who have a similar home life to her was invaluable as she realised that her life experiences didn’t isolate her in those circumstances. The focus on her, and making sure that she had the best time she could, helped G to find a self-worth that she had been struggling to develop at home and at school.

G’s enthusiasm about her time at camp was wonderful to hear and I was delighted to learn that at Sibling camp, the focus is well and truly where it needs to be – on these children who all too frequently miss out or are lost in the everyday busyness of life with chronic illness. She brought home so many memories and meaningful mementoes from camp that reflected all that she’d tried and experienced. Perhaps the most precious of these were her collection of brilliance beads which reflected her achievements during the week – all children receive these at camp from the volunteers and are accompanied by a written record of why they felt the children had earned them. All these elements helped to build up her self-confidence in those few days away at camp and helped her feel even more valued.

At her second camp, G tried her hand at most things, exceeded her own perceived limitations and came away with a much-deserved pride in her achievements. The above photo of a beaming G at the top of the climbing wall reflects her determination to overcome her self-proclaimed fear of heights and the pride she felt when she surpassed what she had managed to achieve last year: more than she had ever believed herself capable of doing. Unlike the previous year, when she had been reluctant to take part in the Talent show, this time round she went prepared with a routine she’d been working on during her school dance club and performed with a confidence and grace that reaped an impressive number of compliments as well as moving one of the volunteers to tears with her passion for her dance. She developed a confidence and willingness to take on new challenges, knowing that, with a little bit of self-belief and perseverance, no mountain is too big for her to conquer.

As a parent, you know you’re on to a good thing when your child asks for more and G asked if we could apply for her to go again almost the moment she got home from her first camp –and every year since. OTW’s unfailing attention to detail and care for the young people at their camps is impressive and everything that I as a parent could want it to be. More importantly, I know that G’s third OTW camp will be just as memorable, fun and special as that very first one and that, for me, is the very best bit.

If you would like to share your story with us, please get in contact media@otw.org.uk