I spent the past two weeks at a camp for children with disabilities. I’ve rarely learnt that much in two weeks and I am grateful beyond description for this experience.
Before the camp, not only did I have back pain so painful I actually considered backing out, but also was I worried I wouldn’t be able to handle the situation. Because the setting was so new to me. I had no experience whatsoever with physical and mental disability and although I knew this would change the coming two weeks, my feelings alternated between fear, excitement, helplessness and worries.
The day soon approached where all the children arrived and the first two days, I actually thought wow, maybe I really can’t handle this. I was absolutely desperate. I was hurt by children several times, I was sleep deprived and I had no time to enjoy a meal without being interrupted 20 times by either having to feed a kid, getting some more food or something to drink for a kid, or having to go to the toilet with them. It might work for a day or two, I thought, but I cannot possibly do this for two weeks.
Turned out I could, and five days after the camp, I miss the kids and feel bored most of the time. What I learnt in these two weeks was to put the needs of others before my own ones. This, I think, is something everyone should learn at some point in their life, and I am grateful for having had this opportunity and having been forced to do so, because who knows when I would have had the chance to learn this so intensively. I learnt to be grateful for what I am able to do by myself – and I am not saying that these children are not grateful and happy, because I think that most of them are much more than us adults because they learnt to see the good in everything.
Some kids I could handle better than others, and I realised that I find it very hard to work with children who can’t communicate with me or cannot answer my questions. If I don’t know if they understand what I’m saying, how can I make sure they’re alright? After the camp I read a book I wished I had read before, because it would definitely have changed my behaviour and language towards one kid. It’s written by a 13-year old autistic boy and explains the behaviour I have seen from this one particular kid so well. Naoki Higashida, thanks for letting me look into your world and understanding autism a little better…
Italy has definitely done something to my taste buds, and this risotto has become one of my favourite things to eat.