Volunteering on a diabetes camp

The first day of camp rolled around and i felt very smug that I only lived half an hour away from Dearne Valley. But my TomTom had other ideas diverting me to an industrial estate before proceeding to tell me i had arrived at my destination. Great start! When I finally arrived I was met by Abi and Will who I’d volunteered with on the camp the year before – its not just the campers who make friends at camp! 

reunited with Abi!

Everybody arrived, we all got to know each other, had our safeguarding talks and then headed down to our lodge for the week. I think Ella, Joanne, Emily and myself had just as much fun as all the campers bunking as a 4 in a dorm room!

who’s the campers?!
Later that evening Stuart, Abi and myself drove to ASDA to get the hypo supplies and cereal bars for throughout the week. The result… well….
, jelly babies and hypo biscuits!
The first day of camp rolled around and lots of shy campers came down to the lodge to drop of ftheir suitcases and were reluctant to let their parents go, which their parents assured us was a first!  After some get to know you games it was time for lunch and for the carb counting to commence. The first day seems like a lifetime ago now but you never forget how strange it is for the volunteers and campers to test all together for the first time. Going from the only one having to carb count to helping others carb count is a crazy experience because for once its the norm.

 

The dream team – Joanne, Lauren, Emily, Myself and Ella

After lunch we headed to the Zip Wire in our groups getting to know each other a bit more. Fears were faced by the campers and even those of us that said they weren’t scared, well… our bloods said different! HELLO ADRENALINE

Before dinner we had a Omnipod change in our Group, so I decided to change mine at the same time for moral support. However I was shown up when I was changing my boring white pod compared to this campers box of colourfully designed pods! I was well and truly put to shame!

 

One of the campers pods!
 Night activity rolled around and everyone had settled in well. Queue Mini Olympics – an activity where we had to move like a tadpole, chicken and monkey between the cones. The campers really got into it and with a leaders team now in place we became very competitive – even going to the extent of pretending to lay eggs!

Day 2 started with Indoor climbing and Bushcraft, with Low ropes and Nightline in the afternoon. Low ropes was such a fun activity starting with team building games at the beginning of the session. Going back to back with another member of the team we had to try and stand ourselves upright without using our hands (this proved more difficult for some **ahem* Ella and Me* than others!) After going on the Low ropes nearly everyone had a low! After blood sugar checks and hypo treatment we headed to our next activity Nightline.

 Nightline was a trail through the trees with a blindfold on crawling through obstacles on the way. As the lovely leaders we are we decided to make the trail a little more interesting holding extra branches and showering the campers (and Nusrat) with water as they went past. Got to love water resistant pumps!

The evening activity was Movie Blitz and after nighttime snack and bedtime checks it was time for the leaders who weren’t on nightshift to head to bed as well. Laid in bed Ella checked her Libre – ‘Im low’. Out of curiosity I checked mine ‘Im low too’. Grabbing three Glucotabs out of the pot up on my top bunk I threw the remainder of the pot to Ella who was on the top bunk at the other side of the room. I missed. Sorry Ella!

 Tuesday morning rolled around, hypo infused I crawled out of bed for wake up duty. The campers were just as tired but excited by the thought of canoeing!

This morning Joanne, who is a student dietician and a non Type 1 decided to trial a cannula and empty insulin pump. From having little background knowledge of Type 1 Joanne had picked it all up within the space of three days even subjecting herself to a cannula (‘which felt funny’) and turned out to have been kinked for the full three days when it was taken out!

Problem solving was our first activity and it was a such a lovely day – spirits were high as we pushed each other up over a wooden wall and brains were ticking as we tried to balance ourselves on a giant wooden seesaw platform. The best activity of the day though was canoeing. Blood sugars checked, pumps removed and we were on the water! The leaders been targeted by every camper as we made our way around the pond it wasn’t long before it looked like we had been swimming! Lets just say our balance wasn’t brilliant within our boat and when playing ‘body part bingo’ when you had to dip the named body part out of the boat and into the water! Ella and I ended up face first in the water with Ella’s shoe floating away! Its ok though we weren’t the first leaders to go in! *Ahem* Abi, Max and Will!

next morning it was Alton Towers day! As most of you know I HATE rollercoasters and after last year of going on a loop the loop I was more than happy to keep my feet firmly on the ground!

However the fearless 12 and 13 year olds in our group didn’t give the rides a second thought going on Rita, 13 and Oblivion – the thought of which just make my stomach drop! After the Rapids we decided to go on the Runaway Mine Train (a ride SUPPOSEDLY for kids). I can now confirm it is not just a kids ride! I was petrified (and laughed at) by the campers who sat next to us!

After arriving back from Alton Towers our nighttime activity was campfire. This was. By far. My favourite activity! Emma one of the leaders at Kingwood introduced us to a new, improved and slightly crazy version of the Banana Song – which was stuck in our heads for the rest of the week! After toasting marshmallows on the fire we headed back to the lodge.

Nightshift.

So after our crazy day at Alton Towers there was no rest for the wicked! Lauren, Ellie and myself was on nightshifts testing at 2,4 and 6am. By this point in the week most of the campers had realised that it was easier to sleep with one arm stretched out ready for their blood check. The worst part – waking a really heavy sleeper to feed them digestive biscuits  – which they proceed to eat with their eyes shut!

On Thursday evening we took the opportunity to have a Diabetes Q and A session splitting the groups girls and boys to ask questions about uni, travel, sport and life in general. Cynthia, one of the leaders, had some brilliant explanations and was type 1 diabetics we all chipped in with our experiences. It was a really good session as the campers asked questions feeling comfortable because of the relationships we had built up during the week.

Friday was the last full day at camp and for Group 1 we started with Aeroball and Laserquest! The Laserquest was such a fun activity which left us energised for the day. The next activity was Drum Jam (the dark horse of activities). Andy, another one of our two main Kingwood leaders for the week led the activity. After practicing the beats we had to make our own. Sorry campers but ours was the best! We took our song to the next level writing lyrics to the most hip diabetes song of 2016! – Check it out on The Backpacker and the Pod Facebook page.

The day rounded off with Jacobs ladder, fencing and Club Kingwood disco and the legendary paper plates awards.

It was so sad on Saturday morning to see all the campers go. Throughout the week you could see how much everyone had grown in confidence and hopefully they will remember camp in years to come and it inspires them to look after their diabetes well. I think every volunteer this week proved that diabetes doesn’t stop you doing anything. One of our campers who I mentioned at the beginning of the blog who had the decorated Pod said to me ‘Im going to start wearing my pod loud and proud now!’ and that made me nearly cry. It just shows how influential these camps are and how positive being around other people with the same ‘disease’ can be. It wasn’t just the kids who had made amazing friends this week though but it was the same for the volunteers. Some even may have had a little cry!

Dearne Valley team…

Thankyou for a brilliant week

PS Can we have Emma and Max back next year please Diabetes uk!

Lots of Love The Backpacker and the Pod xxx

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