Although I had visited camp in 2016, as part of a research study being undertaken with Heads Together and Monash University looking at the experience of a recreational camp for families with a child or young person with acquired brain injury, my first ‘real’ camp was in May 2017 as a family volunteer.
It was a weekend which blew me away. I got to know my volunteer family and spend time with them. I met other families. I met other volunteers. We talked, played games that made us laugh, and danced at the disco. I was touched to hear people share stories and experiences at the Fire of Friendship, but it was Magic Moments which really moved me. I thought that as I was a new volunteer, I wouldn’t really be in people’s minds. But for each statement read out, I felt a hand touch me and I realised that in some way people remembered me.
What do I get out of volunteering? As a neuropsychology student and researcher, being at camp gives a human story to ABI and reminds me to keep that story foremost in my mind and in my work. As a person, volunteering at camp reminds me to face challenges head on – and always try to see the sunny side of things. Thank you for the opportunity to join the Heads Together community. I look forward to many more camps!
“What is Heads Together?” – a question I get asked every time I pack my face paint, sleeping bag and best ‘get dirty’ sneakers before camp. Also a question that can be difficult to answer succinctly, because I think Heads Together means so many different things to many different people.
It’s a community where you can be celebrated for your unique individual talents, and can be inspired by the endless abilities of those around you. It’s an opportunity to play silly games and have double helpings of dessert. It’s also a place where you can feel safe to share thoughts, feelings and challenging experiences without fear of judgment.
Heads Together is the best kind of family. One that’s loud and crazy and fun; but that also knows how to sit quietly and listen and to give one heck of a hug when it’s needed most.
My more recent foray into the Heading Out events has broadened my Heads Together experience for the better. I leave every lunch feeling invigorated (and full!), having had the opportunity to share delicious food, terrible jokes and crazy stories with a group of such inspiring individuals.
For me, Heads Together is my reminder of what people can achieve regardless of the obstacles put in front of them. It’s my prompt to recall that it’s okay to be vulnerable at times, and to lean on others around you. Not least of all, camp provides me with an opportunity to reflect on my persisting fear of top bunks.
But hey, that’s just my Heads Together. What does your Heads Together mean to you?
What you learnt about families and acquired brain injury since volunteering with Heads Together?
Since participating in the heads together camps I have come to understand that an ABI is not always a visible injury and can come in many shapes and forms and effect people in many different ways.
What do you enjoy most about your volunteer role?
The opportunity to sit down and share a cuppa tea with anyone who is up for a chat knowing that it is providing a break from what can be a stressful life for some.
How has heads together changed what you do in your everyday life?
It hasn’t changed me but it has definitely reinforced the notion that you should never judge anyone. The camp values of acceptance and respect is such a great thing to reinforce when back in your everyday life.
What has been most unexpected about volunteering for heads together?
I never used to drink tea until camp! I didn’t think I had anything to offer as a volunteer with no previous experience in ABI or the health field in general. This didn’t matter because all I needed to offer was a pair of ears and to live by the camp values.
I first heard about the magic of Heads Together through a colleague and was intrigued to find out more. Working as an OT for adults with an ABI, it was relevant to my interests and work. I was keen to learn more about families who have experienced an ABI.
I enjoy volunteering as I can go away, be myself and have fun with some truly genuine, dedicated and inspiring people. All volunteers, their different personality traits, and qualities are welcomed at camp. Camp reminds me to see the world through a more positive lens and be more accepting of others. The most unexpected thing about volunteering is whilst we can all expect to come away exhausted, emotionally we are completely recharged and inspired. You quickly realise that what we take from camp as a volunteer is more than we could ever give. It provides us all with an opportunity to grow as individuals and connect with our community.