Volunteering: the best way to spend your summer!

Barretstown Therapeutic recreationRob Pleticha, Online Communities Manager for RareConnect, volunteers every year to help children who are living with rare diseases. A short time ago, he spent a week at Barretstown Therapeutic Recreation Programme and told us about it: 
"You arrive the night before the training. It’s dark but the trees are bright green, the horses are so comfortable, they lay down in the pasture sleeping, and the cabins scattered thoroughout the grounds emit a warm glow. You sleep well in the Irish night as fresh air fills you.

You’ve come to Barretstown in Ballymore Eustace, Ireland to participate as a volunteer “cara” at an eight day camp summer session. 120 kids from 7 countries will arrive in two days. They all share the common experience of living with a serious medical condition at a young age.

Before the campers arrive, there is a full day of training for all the volunteers. A full Irish breakfast starts the mornings off right. The overwhelming spirit is of support, preparation, curiosity and laughter. The day begins with a discussion about therapeutic recreation, the core philosophy behind Barretstown’s summer camp programme.

The campers finally arrive. Everyone is excited, full of questions, and eager for the days ahead. The language barrier across the different nationalities melts away with volunteer translators and careful planning by the programme staff. Days go quickly and are structured with two activity periods in the morning and two in the afternoon with camp wide activities after dinner. The vast selection includes: canoeing, fishing, arts and crafts, high ropes, horses, photography, theatre, and music.

Simply, it is a place of first names, high fives, smiles, and encouragement. The doctor visits, difficult treatments, and discomfort at school are replaced with one thing: FUN. Fun and challenge is discovered by each individual in their own unique way. We all have different levels of comfort. Some of the most confidence developing experiences can be witnessed when the camper comes down from the High Ropes course or off the back of a gentle horse. Rebuilding is going on, and a volunteer is in a privileged position to be a part of it.

The effect of attending a camp like Barretstown has a lifelong impact."

Robert Pleticha, RareConnect Manager at EURORDIS, volunteering at Barretstown, Ireland

Page created: 19/09/2012
Page last updated: 02/04/2013
The voice of rare disease patients in EuropeEURORDIS The international voice of people living with rare diseasesRare Disease International Bringing together patients, families and experts to share experiences in a moderated multi-language forum. RareConnect The Rare Barometer Programme is a EURORDIS initiative that carries out surveys to transform rare disease patients' experiences into figures and facts that can be shared with decision-makers.Rare Barometer An international awareness raising campaign taking place on the last day of February each year, Rare Disease Day is a EURORDIS initiativeRare Disease Day Join the largest gathering of rare disease stakeholders across Europe, at the biennial European Conference on Rare Diseases and Orphan Products. ECRD is a EURORDIS initiativeEuropean Conference on Rare Diseases