“None of us know our limits until we are allowed to test them”

After commenting on a recent twitter post about his trip to Bendrigg in 1992 & 1993, we asked Mark to share his story!

 

“In the early 90’s I was a support worker, employed by an inner London borough, working in the community supporting a small group of brain injured people. The work was tough but fun, my colleagues and clients became lifelong friends. My boss Paul was a very dry-humoured Cumbrian, exiled to London, and one day he came up with the idea of a holiday at Bendrigg.”

I was utterly stunned by the setting

“Before long we were packing up the persistently unreliable minibus and making the journey up the motorway. I had never been to the Lake District before and I was utterly stunned by the setting, it was a far cry from the inner London estate we had come from. For one of our guys it was one of the first times he had ever been out of central London, it was a genuine culture shock. I remember his face as we surveyed the open spaces and huge sky.”

We did things that I did not think could be done

“Our care tasks remained the same whether we were in London or the Lakes. People needed support to wash, dress and eat etc but now we were adding activities such as canoeing, abseiling and caving to our days. We did things that I did not think could be done, people with very limited movement and even more limited opportunity, took on physical tasks that looked impossible. It was the Bendrigg staff that made the impossible possible, it was their knowledge, encouragement and belief that pushed us all, me and my colleagues included, to go beyond what we thought we could do. True bravery is wheeling yourself backwards off of an abseiling wall when you have never attempted anything like that before and you never thought you could do it; I saw that happen more than once.”

It was a week of working hard and playing hard

“I recall that the evenings were as much fun as the days. I was taught to fire-breathe, a trick I still wheel out from time to time, much to the amazement of my own children (and the horror of health and safety officers the world over); but my inability to learn how to juggle has persisted. The week flew by and, following a second visit by the nice man from the AA, we packed the van and hit the M6 South. We were all exhausted, but we had earn’t this tiredness, it was a week of working hard and playing hard. It was so hard that we booked for the following year and did it all again (as did the nice man from the AA).”

None of us know our limits until we are allowed to test them

“It is more than quarter of a century since I last visited Bendrigg Lodge, I see from photographs that the centre has expanded but has remained true to its aims of inclusion and pushing boundaries and expectations. None of us know our limits until we are allowed to test them, many of us are hesitant, needing the support of trusted people to enable us to go one step further. Bendrigg did that for my clients, my colleagues and me. In the intervening years I am sorry to say that three of my four clients and two of my five colleagues have now passed away, some of my happiest memories of them all are of being on the wind-swept hillsides or lakes near Bendrigg. I still work with people affected by brain injury.”

They taught me to see ability

“My visits to Bendrigg were amongst the hardest working weeks I have ever had but they remain the most memorable too. They taught me to see ability, they showed me what it means to work in a team and they formed a lifelong love of the outdoors. I am a city-boy but I relax by spending time in the hills. I am certain that Bendrigg has had an impact on thousands of people in a similar way and I look forward to seeing it continue to thrive and give life-changing opportunities to many.”

 

Do you have a Bendrigg Story you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you! 

A tale of Bendy Pot

At Bendrigg we see the impact that a high-quality residential has on our clients every day. People discover what is truly within them – what depths of character, what powers of determination, what sense of joy. It is no exaggeration to say that for many visitors, a stay at Bendrigg can prove to be a life-changing experience for both participants and volunteers/carers/teachers alike! ‘When Joel got the Bends’ is a wonderful case study from Birmingham Phab Camps volunteer James about the importance of  perceptions and ultimately believing in yourself and others. Read the full story here.

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IMG_1355 Joel

How outdoor learning benefits people with disabilities

Ask any adult what their fondest memory of school is and most will come back with an exciting story about a residential trip; how they explored, played, took risks, tried new things and made new friends. At the time, you don’t realise how these experiences shape who you become later in life.

The Government are committed to making such opportunities available to everyone, no matter their background, ability or needs. In their recent white paper ‘Educational Excellence Everywhere’, the Department for Education outlined the need for every child to have experiences that equip them with “the knowledge, skills, values, character traits and experiences that will help them to navigate a rapidly changing world with confidence”.

High-quality residentials play an important part in this aim with impacts being seen immediately. The research project, Learning Away, demonstrated the impact that residential learning can have on learner engagement, achievement and relationships. They found that “a residential learning experience provides opportunities and benefits/impacts that cannot be achieved in any other educational context”. These traits not only open doors to employment and social opportunities but underpin academic success, happiness and wellbeing.

It can be argued that these benefits are even more profound and life-changing for the 0.9million children (7%) in the UK who are disabled. High-quality residentials provide “opportunities for students with disabilities to be engaged in physical activities” which is greatly needed as 86% of families with disabled children go without leisure activities. Add to this the fact that 65% of families caring for disabled children report feeling isolated frequently or all of the time and the need for truly inclusive outdoor provision is clear.

Inspiration through adventure

“George” (a pseudonym) was one such student for whom a brilliant residential had a profoundly positive benefit. Therry, a teacher who frequently brought students on residential courses to Bendrigg Trust, tells his story:

The youngest student we ever had with the team was an 8 year old young man, George, with cerebral palsy, epilepsy and profound visual and auditory impairments. This was to be his first time away from his family and home. He blossomed with his responses and became so smiley and noisy (to the degree of cheeky!) showing us there were ways around, through and over the barriers we previously had believed to be there in the school environment.

Once free of his wheelchair and secure in his climbing gear, George felt his way carefully up the climbing wall requiring minimal support from Bendrigg staff but making his own choices, as his fingers and feet found bumps, hollows and things to push and pull on. He was able to fly along the zip wire with happy howls of delight and his eyes, which we understood to provide him with no vision, sparkled. We know that Bendrigg worked its magic in ways no one could have imagined and we are so grateful that George was able to have this experience. I wish it was possible to bottle this ‘Bendrigg magic’ from start to finish so everyone could see, and truly believe what each individual can achieve.

“George” may be a made-up name but his story is real.

Bendrigg Trust believes in the impact that high-quality residential courses can have for young people with a disability; combining activities that they never dreamt possible with a welcoming and inclusive home-from-home. From learning to make your own bed to taking your first journey in a canoe, Bendrigg believes in giving young people skills for life, an increased motivation and appetite for learning and broadening horizons, often opening up a whole new world of opportunity.

 

Do you have a story about the impact outdoor learning? Comment below and let us know!