Author: Amanda Topps
Amanda Topps, supported by the UK charity Through the Roof which works in Britain and internationally with people who have disabilities, has initiated and led two holidays for people with different abilities in adapted lodges at a woodland holiday village in England.
The difference with these holidays is that people go on holiday together as friends supporting each other to enjoy a fantastic break. Amanda outlines what makes this experience different.
Sarah told me about her recent experience on the holiday:
“I love that we all go as friends and everyone contributes something, making us all equals rather than the ‘them and us’.”
Sarah is supported via her local authority to live independently and funds a personal assistant to help her for a few hours each day. What she discovered on the holiday was a different way of living which made her feel equally valued and regarded. The person who spends the most time with her on the holiday is a friend and not a paid supporter.
My experience of over 20 years taking part in holidays for people with disabilities was the equalising factor of spending quality time together. Yes, I loved helping people practically, but what I found that instead of a ‘volunteer’ mentality where I was charitably offering my time to serve others, I gained so much more personally, than I was expecting to receive. I found a little piece of heaven on earth. A personal Time Bank. In this bank I stored up the vast wealth of the wonderful gifts of humour, grace and generosity that Rita offered me, when I nervously attempted to assist her for the first time on my very first holiday. As I practically offered her my hands and feet, I probably stumbled and tripped over rather embarrassingly physically and metaphorically, but when I landed home exhausted and happy, what I’d learnt was that we all have great gifts to offer others.
Rita and everyone else on the holiday, had given as much to me and more than I had given as a volunteer. I made new friends. I felt accepted and people told me I am good at things. This experience gave me insight into why we all have equal value. I felt loved, blessed and valued by spending time with Rita. Other people on the holiday built me up and encouraged me to be a better person. I discovered my skills, my abilities and myself for the first time.
“I think it is good to help each other, whether in a big way or a small way. Apart from helping anyone to do something it was also good just to talk to and encourage people.”
Sarah, like me, was seeing the value in doing things differently. Enjoying being human, accepted, loved and valued without the boundaries and infringement of paid ‘professional’ help.
Arriving at the lodge, the scene is set for everyone on the holiday to look out for and help each other have a fun holiday together. We work as a team to make meals, go places, have fun, do activities like swimming, archery, cycling, 10 pin bowling, pottery painting and boating. Popping into the lodge as a visitor you may find someone asking someone else if they have their raincoat or swim things or someone else offering to carry a bag on their electric scooter.
One holidaymaker said:
“I love to work in a team to make sure a good time is had by all. I can’t do too much on a physical level but verbally I can support people and spiritually and emotionally I enjoy doing this.”
There is a holistic element to this way of holidaying too. People are able to get much closer than in a normal situation where care is given. It’s not just about the practical stuff. There is time to explore personal and spiritual issues. Everyone is more relaxed because it’s a holiday. Everyone has their own holiday plan, a personal timetable of all their holiday activities, but what I saw were people being flexible with their free time so that they could support each other and enjoy someone’s company.
What was so refreshing about this was people’s selflessness, their willingness and ability to put aside their plans to help someone else. We created a positive reciprocal environment in which equality, humanity and friendship could flourish. Everyone went away wanting to know when the next holiday was. I went away wanting to know how to do this more.
There will be more holidays in the future and Amanda is also looking to establish an inclusive accessible holiday home. To find out more about the holidays and to join the mailing list please email Amanda at: email@example.com.
To find out more about Through the Roof visit their website: www.throughtheroof.org.uk
The publisher is the Centre for Welfare Reform.
A Holiday with a Difference © Amanda Topps 2018.
All Rights Reserved. No part of this paper may be reproduced in any form without permission from the publisher except for the quotation of brief passages in reviews.