I've been a bit quiet the past couple of weeks, but for a very good reason.
I've been back in Exeter for a fortnight volunteering on a camp for young carers called Summer Adventures. It's run by a society I was heavily involved in at university and offers carers age 7-15 the opportunity to have a crucial break from their home duties for a week of their school holidays. You can read more about the camp here. This year over 60 children joined us over the two weeks, all of whom had a fantastic time, which is of course the main thing!
As a bonus, I had a brilliant time too.
Summer Adventures taught me a lot about young carers and dealing with children and teenagers. It was great to get to know them over the week they were with us and learn about their lives and what they enjoy doing. I also learned a lot about myself, including that I'm a lot more competitive than I ever thought, and that I can actually be brave and challenge myself when I want to! I also made loads of new friends (who might be reading this, so hello if you are!!)
It also gave me the opportunity to do some reeeeeeally fun stuff around Exeter and Devon that I didn't have the chance to do (or never thought of doing!) when I was at uni.
Week 1 was with the younger children. One day, we headed to the Donkey Sanctuary in Sidmouth.
I love donkeys. I don't know why, I have just grown up as a bit of a fan. So this was a very good day out.
I mean, I got to get a selfie with a donkey. Happy days.
There was also an obstacle course for the kids to do where they led a donkey round carrying things on their head and throwing beanbags into hoops etc.
I wanted a go at that! (I won... obvs)
One day each week we headed to Heatree, which is an outdoor activities centre up on Dartmoor. The drive up there consisted of playing eye spy and singing Frozen songs while looking out over the moors. So far so good.
I was planning, on the first visit, to take it easy for the afternoon and look after the bags etc. But as soon as I got there, the child inside me wanted to play.
Which meant I ended up doing this
Another thing I learned on SA is that balance is not my strong point. So, on the low ropes course we did that afternoon I definitely struggled a lot more than any of the kids. They laughed. I fell. Repeat. I've returned home covered in bruises.
I also felt that sliding down a tunnel in a stream was a great idea.
...And then I got pushed into a bog by my dear friends...
It was a big bog. It swallowed up one of the girl's shoes never to be seen again.
Fortunately I made it out alive; smelly, soaked and smiley.
On week 2's visit back to Heatree we did high ropes, which I don't have any photos of, but based on my proven failures on the low ropes I was very, very scared. But I gave it a go, walked (with jelly legs) along a beam 25m in the air, and clung onto it for dear life when the instructor told me to let go.
A solid effort, I thought.
The afternoon activity was raft building. I was adamant I would not be going in the lake.
The (dashing) outfit I was given didn't seem to promise anything, though.
We were proud of our raft and were happily bobbing along in the lake
Until we were attacked by pirates (of course that was going to happen....)
I think my face says it all.
Continuing with the getting absolutely splashed and soaked theme, we also went canoeing at Exeter quay one day (during which I successfully managed to look like an over excited child)
And headed to Splashdown waterpark in Paignton
There is a slide there nicknamed the death slide. It is basically a vertical drop and yes, you do feel like you're going to die (I did anyway).
But again, I survived, and kept smiling.
So, a few things to take from this.
If you're in Devon, give some of these places a go. You will have a lot of fun.
If you get chance to volunteer with children, do it. The child hiding inside you would be very, very happy you did, and I'm sure the children you'd work with would be too.
And give everything a go.