Family Partners Programme: Serving as a 32-hour Caregiver at the Summer Camp
Family Partners Programme Development Manager shares what it was like to take on the responsibility of caring for 20-year-old Tianhang over the weekend summer camp.
During the final week of July, ICC’s Family Partners Programme put on a weekend summer camp designed for children and young adults with moderate to severe special needs.
My heart was deeply touched as the parents began to arrive. Most were shy and a bit embarrassed that they were unburdening themselves temporarily by leaving their children in our care. As we eagerly got ready to serve, we were also feeling a bit apprehensive, taking full responsibility for these children for the next 32 hours.
We held the event on a college campus, and our staff did a great job of organising teams (complete with mascots and slogans), games, magic shows and the like.
I was responsible for a 20-year-old young man named Tianhang. He was non-verbal, physically strong and had a mind of his own. I found this out minutes after his parents departed. He took me to see a water tower he liked to look at and when I “encouraged” him to return to home base, he had other ideas.
I was due to give a speech at the opening ceremonies, but instead found myself in a swing with a contented Tianhang who had no intention of being displaced. Eventually, I was rescued by other volunteers who guided him inside so I could give my remarks.
At meal time, if he did eat, it usually wasn’t for very long. My partner, Peggy and I typically had about three minutes to serve ourselves and scarf down some nutrients before we would have to be in hot pursuit again. At night-time, I recruited my 14-year-old son, Caleb to assist. Even without a midday nap, Tianhang was active until after 3 a.m. So day two took on an extra level of difficulty with a total of six hours of sleep between the both of us (Caleb and I)!
Throughout the weekend, up until the minute his parents arrived and picked him up (leaving me feeling a bit dazed that it was over), my mind and attention were fully absorbed in both caring for his needs and keeping him safe. The experience gave me a deep level of appreciation for his devoted parents who care for his needs and try to keep him happy for much more than just those 32 hours.
It was an honour to play a small part in giving so many sets of dedicated caregivers a breather.
Join us as a Family Partner to keep struggling families together!