Higher Ground camps for visually impaired persons - a campers experience

Higher Ground camps for visually impaired persons - a campers experience

A picture of Wortelgat - the place where the camp took place

A Campers Experience – My first Higher Ground camp!

 

-- By Dewald van Dewenter, Higher Ground camp for adults with a visual impairment, January 2011 in the Western Cape.

The week of the 15th to the 21st of January 2011 I went to my first Higher Ground camp. It was an amazing week jam-packed with activities, games and all sorts of fun stuff.  I never had a week like this before, and I will never forget it.  I met a lot of new people. There wasn't one person I have met before.  Some were familiar on the email mailing lists etc. but, others I have never heard of.

A group of blind people chatting to each other, in small groups, sharing experiences, and doing fun stuff together blind people won't usually do on normal camps.  On a camp for seeing eyes, I would probably have said, no thank you, if they should ask me if i would like to go kayaking with them.

But at this camp all the blind campers took off their blindfolds of fear and uncertainty, and just: DID IT.

The sighted volunteers, Kerneels and Emma, Elaine, Bronwill and Morris, and 6 Christian Missionaries from America "Sarah, Blake, Will, Carrie, Alexandra and Heidi", served us with their love, patience, willingness, and also with delicious food.  We felt like kings and queens.

They prompted us to do extreme things, which I would probably not do on my own, like for instance, swim in the cold cold freezing water at Wortelgat's beach, and, jump off a 2-3 meter sand dune on the beach.

We did all kinds of activities, like:

  • Hiking, fast or slow, through the lovely bushveld;
  • Kayaking on the lagoon next to the mountain, a blind person with a sighted volunteer.  We had lots of fun, and I expected to fall off the kayak into the water, but I didn't hear of one person falling off by accident.  We had lots of fun, bumping into each other on purpose, racing, and accidentally, run right into the reeds, and blaming each other for it;
  • Archery: We had to try and shoot three balloons on the target. Well, I got at least one, the other arrows were quite near. Each person had a try, and the volunteers helped us aim in the "general" direction, and shoot. It was exciting;
  • Voyage on the Catamaran on the Klein River: Some sat on the ground floor, watching the captain do his job supervising him where to turn, and some actually had a chance of feeling how he steered the big boat through the raging waters of the river.  Some sat on top, on the deck above, gazing out on the gardens with roses, the mountains, stretching up to the clouds, and the valleys, down below, where cows and horses could be seen, happily grazing.  We stopped at a spot in the lagoon where we jumped off the boat, into the water, and swam there, with no limitation of the sides of a pool at home, and nothing beneath our feet but water;
  • Horse riding on a bush trail that winds through veld and up the mountain, past vineyards.  Some were scared at first, but some, like me, enjoyed it immensely.
  • Team challenges: We had all sorts of games like puzzles and clues the team had to figure out, or musical questions we had to answer, live Cluedo we played, and some drama we performed, radio shows, the cool talent show, where every person showed the rest what he or she could do the best.

 And when we had time off, the whole group split up in small groups, playing 30 Seconds, Chess, Dominos, card games, or just chilled.  We also had two of the volunteers reading a book for us, and they sounded like two people which any blind person would like to here reading a book on their computer, on CD, or on tape or MP3 Player.

But, as i'm finishing up, there was one thing that stood up the most, through all the activities, and fun things we did:  It was the 6 volunteers from the US, who, each day, brought a message out of the Bible, which the Lord gave to them, which were really edifying and uplifting, which formed the foundation of that day, and of the whole camp.

So, I was very reluctant and sad to say goodbye to everybody at camp, and going back to life. Because it really felt like dreaming.

For details on the camps, send an email to Emma or call her on  0 72 039 0907 or visit their website.

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