As a trustee for We Love Carers I felt that is was important to understand how volunteering fits into the charity and see firsthand the impact that the 3 week summer play scheme Complete Chaos offers.
I had volunteered for holiday chaos before but always shied away from complete Chaos because in all honesty I felt that it would be too difficult for me. So when the opportunity arose and I was invited to come and meet the children and volunteer I reluctantly agreed. I believed it was important to show my support and actually felt I had a lot to offer and wanted to make a difference to a child and their family. I was arrogant enough to believe that I would be the one making a difference; it never occurred to me that being part of Chaos would actually make a huge difference to me! It never occurred to me that I would be the one who got 100% more back than I had put in! I never imagined that I would have more fun and be filled with happiness and love for the unique and delightful children that I had the privilege of interacting with.
The induction session that was arranged was invaluable as it helped all the volunteers understand the needs of the children and also bond as a wider team. The support and camaraderie between volunteers is essential in making the scheme work. Also the clear procedures and policies ensured that everyone knew what was expected of them and the morning briefings where your 1-1 child was allocated enabled you to ask questions or were offered suggestions which was really helpful.
On my first day after reading my allocated child’s profile I got really nervous. She was non verbal, had limited mobility, had learning difficulties and feeding issues and had never been to the play scheme before. In truth I wanted to leave, I did not know how I would connect with this child and felt that I had bitten off more than I could chew and that this was going to be the hardest 5 hours of my life!
This tiny child arrived and I am unsure who looked more terrified, her or me! I got the opportunity to have a handover with her carer who helped me to understand her likes and dislikes. Then that was it, we were in this together until the end of the day.
So what did we do for the next 5 hours? We Clapped, stomped, sang, played, laughed and communicated using our facial expressions, our hands, our feet and our hearts! It was honestly the most inspiring, warming and satisfying 5 hours I have spent! Feeling the trust and relationship that we built made me realise that actually talking is overrated! The beaming smile that I received by the end of the day was more rewarding than anything else I could think of.
I learnt so much during that time, I learned that children with additional needs and disabilities have so much to give, they are funny, loving and clever. I learnt that volunteering makes me happy and I learned how much this support is needed during the 6 weeks holidays for parent carers and their families. I also learned that giving another person that much undivided attention is absolutely mentally and physically exhausting! I learned how much energy that parent carers have to invest into their families.
I only managed to volunteer for 3 days, unfortunately work got in the way, otherwise I would have been there more. I can see why Chaos volunteers give up paid work to be part of this scheme and come back year after year! I know that after being part of it this year I will be saving annual leave to be back there in 2016!
Donna Roberts – We Love Carers Trustee