Four years ago, 3rd August 2018, we launched the first accessible camp at Ivy Farm. Tim (the husband) and I, Rachel, had dreamed of creating a place where family holidays with children who have complex needs could be a restful and fun for the whole family. We know our own family holidays are normally harder work than being at home. They continue to be adventures with very little rest.
Unsurprisingly, we didn’t have the resources and capacity to make such a place happen. Then alongside Ralph, Jenny (owners of Ivy Farm) and Chris (Jojo’s mum), we found ourselves amongst the perfect mix of compassionate, dedicated people who all shared the same dream but with different skills and assets to create
That first year, between the five of us, we fundraised, borrowed equipment, hired a changing places toilet and came together with a mix of families’ own and our tents. It was incredibly hard work. The planning for that one weekend took six months and a dedicated team of volunteers.
What was created though, is utterly magical
The camaraderie of being around people who share different stories but similar emotional milestones.
The deep sigh of being together and outside.
The creativity of overcoming hurdles in order to forge unique, life-long memories.
The relaxation that comes from being around people who don’t need an explanation.
The community created of those able to provide enough practical, emotional and physical support to make life something which can be enjoyed, not just survived.
The families love it and the volunteers, just as much.
Because what we create is greater than our parts.
Every single person on Camp works hard. Families do it twenty-four seven and our volunteers step up and try to match the dedication, love and passion those families give every day of the year.
That first year of Camp Jojo, amongst the patchwork of tents, we sat around the campfire and sang, laughed and felt utterly grateful for just being in that moment. This year, the site has matching tents (two with ceiling track hoists), its own Marque, wheelchair walkways, changing places toilet, a brilliant paid operations manager and so many volunteers who work all year round. There are four weekends, with Tim and I leading one. It continues to be expensive and hard work but that is the reality of caring well for families with children who have complex needs.
Camp Jojo is expensive and flippin’ brilliant too
From the outside Camp Jojo this year looks so much more professional with our matching T-shirts and variety of specialist equipment. But at the heart, Camp Jojo, is exactly the same as that first camp four years ago. The simple pleasure of being amongst your tribe, the beauty of the outdoors, trying new things and making new friends. The magic of gathering somewhere where every person is valued and catered for.
Creating community far greater than the sum of its parts to make a little bit of heaven on earth.