Written by Very Special Kids volunteer Janelle
I’ve been lucky enough to be a family volunteer with Very Special Kids for the past two years. I volunteer with an amazing, beautiful family who have welcomed me into their home on a fortnightly basis. Working mostly with the eldest son, Ryan, we have done plenty of colouring, chatting, going out to the park, shops, library, pool, and on his birthday – the movies!
Late last year, the very wonderful family support practitioner, Anna, asked me if I would consider accompanying Ryan to Lord Somers Camp. Lord Somers Camp is a pretty magical place for Very Special Kids’ families to have a shared experience, some respite time for parents and carers, and all their meals cooked for the weekend (I certainly enjoyed this part!)
Being entrusted to take care of someone else’s child for a night away is certainly a big responsibility, but also an immense privilege. I was fortunate to also attend the most recent camp in February. [This time] it was easier to know what to expect.
It is difficult to articulate just how special it is to share this weekend with Ryan and other Very Special Kids families. I feel like camp creates a true sense of belonging. I was apprehensive to participate in all of the activities myself, feeling like I didn’t need or deserve them because I am ‘just’ a Very Special Kids volunteer.
However, all of the fantastic staff, families and Lord Somers & Powerhouse volunteers made me feel extremely welcomed, and many remembered us and were very happy to see us back at camp.
I’ve come to learn that it doesn’t matter how or why you are at camp; it just matters that you are. With that being said, I took my first (and probably last) ride on a Harley Davidson and managed to sneak in a swim at the beach while Ryan played ball games, went on the jumping castle and coloured in with the child-minding volunteers.
I care deeply for Ryan, and seeing someone you care about experience new things, learn new skills and connect with others is so heartwarming.
A particular camp highlight was the reflections at the end of the weekend. Listening to Very Special Kids families share their experiences and what camp means to them is an extraordinary privilege. This is a time where you understand what Very Special Kids means to families. It’s a glimpse into what volunteers mean to these families as well.
It is extremely fulfilling to know you make a difference in people’s lives. I know how grateful Ryan and his family are that I work with them, and I know how grateful Anna and Very Special Kids, as an organisation, are of all their volunteers. But I don’t think they realise how grateful I am. To be able to be involved in camp, family volunteering, and other Very Special Kids’ events is so incredibly meaningful.