The I Can Network’s first camp: great success!
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’m a member of the I Can Network; an NGO that works to support people with autism. We focus on empowering and enabling, promoting an “I Can” rather than an “I Can’t” mentality.
From the 25th to the 27th of April, we ran our first camp for young adults with autism, at Gembrook, outside Melbourne. In addition to our core team of facilitators, more than thirty people took part.
Organizing and running the event was a gargantuan undertaking. First of all, we had to feed everybody, including those with allergies and intolerances. Carting four trolleys overflowing with food out of the supermarket, we must have looked like doomsday planners preparing for World War 3, or the invasion of the carnivorous Brussel Sprouts from Jupiter. Then we had to make sure everybody made it to the camp; easier said than done, as it was in the middle of nowhere, with no phone reception. Some of the camp facilitators actually had trouble finding it!
It was a challenge, but our amazing facilitator team rose to meet it, and the end results were absolutely worth it.
We had several guest speakers, including Jim Anderson, a paraplegic whose refusal to let his injury hold him back was truly inspiring. There were group activities, such as expressing ideas through everything from writing to Lego to playdough, and a “dress to obsess” ball where our costumes reflected our passions. (I went as Godzilla; at first I was going to proper suit, but it would have taken too long too arrive from Japan. Next I looked for a dinosaur onesie, but it’s much harder than it should be to find one that will fit a 6 foot man. In the end, I stuck green cardboard spines on the back of a green T-shirt)
What was strikingly apparent throughout the three day program was the remarkable spectrum of talent on display. Highlights were numerous and wonderful, from a non-verbal man who could express himself with incredible eloquence via a keyboard, to a passionate impromptu duet of the song “Let it go”.
But perhaps the best part of all was the acceptance and support people showed each other. I left the camp with a dozen more friends than I had when I arrived, and I’m wasn’t the only one.
At one point, when I was preparing a meal, one of my co-chefs cut their finger with a knife; the blood gave me an immediate panic attack, and I went to bits like a gingerbread man in a blender. So many people pitched in to try to make me feel better, and not just my colleagues; I’ve never felt so supported in my life. It was truly something special.
It may not have been a completely smooth ride, but on the whole, the camp was a resounding success, and will hopefully be the first of many for our organization.