Meet the Hardings: an OTW volunteering family
It was in 1999 at the age of 21 that Ben Harding decided he would volunteer for Over The Wall. Back then the charity had only just launched and was advertising for volunteers to help facilitate the first ever UK residential camp for children with serious illness.
During a sabbatical year at university, Ben was so blown away with camp that he decided he would return to volunteer during the following summer.
In 2000, Sarah, who had just graduated from university aged 22, discovered Over The Wall, and having previously been to camps in the USA, it immediately appealed to her. She explains:
“I remember going to a careers fayre and I walked around for quite some time. All I really came away with was an Over The Wall flyer! I had decided there and then to volunteer and was really excited about it.”
“As soon as I arrived at camp it felt amazing. It was very clear that we were in the early stages of something special. Everyone volunteering was completely captivated by the energy at camp! It was a really innovative, new place, and we were all contributing ideas towards the different activities. Even though it was brand new, it felt like it was something very big in the early stages of infancy. As volunteers, we felt like part of a new family. It was at this camp that I became good friends with Ben.”
“We had both just finished uni when we met. We were just good friends for quite a while after meeting at camp, and always met up whenever we volunteered. We grew closer and finally got together at Ben’s leaving party as he was about to go off travelling. As friends we’d always talked about travelling together and so I made plans to meet him in Thailand. We had such a fantastic time.”
It was in 2008 that Ben and Sarah decided that they would marry. Even in marriage they were supporters of Over The Wall, listing the charity as one of the options guests could donate to as a wedding gift.
Two years after their marriage, Ben and Sarah had their first child Sam, and then two years after that, they had Joe.
“We apply a lot of what we learnt at camp to our family life.” says Sarah. “For example, at the dinner table we often talk about the ‘roses and thorns’ we have experienced throughout our day – and discuss what’s been good and what’s been bad. Something that is still done at camp I believe!”
“Camp teaches you to get up in the morning and embrace life and have fun and this is something we practice in our family.”
“Even our eldest son of eight, Sam, recently chose to support Over The Wall. Having received cash for his birthday he made a decision to donate half of it to a charity. We looked into various options, but he finally decided that he really liked Over The Wall, and also he wanted to choose the charity where his mummy and daddy met!”