This year I was hired to work as Camp Counsellor for Camp Merrywood for a second summer in Ontario, Canada. Last year I was hired at a recruitment fair where I spoke to different camps to discuss why my skills were suitable to work there. I came across Easter Seals, whose camps are entirely accessible and suited to children with physical disabilities. This was something very new to me, and as a medical student, was highly appealing because it would be fantastic experience to work there for my future. After having a fantastic experience working there last year I decided once again to apply, and much to my happiness, I was hired!
Camp entails lots of activities, including kayaking, archery, arts and crafts, sports and games and so much more. I was trained to transfer campers from wheelchairs into boats and chairs, and to engage campers with little cognitive ability in programmes. Personal care was also an important element of the job –last year I found this a little difficult but with time and patience it became second nature and this year I was able to complete it with ease! Moreover, having built a rapport with many of the campers last year, I felt comfortable and well-practised in their personal care which definitely made the job much easier this year.
There were some testing days at camp as it often got tiring and draining. However, the good times most definitely outweighed the bad – the smiles on the campers faces got me through my days, and it was rewarding to know that they could do activities that were otherwise impossible out with camp.
This experience has made me much more prepared for my future career in Medicine, as I have been able to realise that disabilities vary in presentation massively, despite what textbooks say. Someone with cerebral palsy may not be able to walk but can speak verbally, but another individual with the same condition may not be able to speak at all yet walk without assistance. Had I not been to camp, I would never have appreciated how much variation there can be within people and their presentations, and therefore will have otherwise been less prepared and open minded when deciding on managements and treatments.
I have made friends for life here and travelled to a country that I have come to love and adore. But most importantly, I helped make this a great summer for the campers, and in doing so, learned that more needs to be done within society to help those with disabilities succeed, as together, we can help make that happen.