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The Visually Impaired (VIP) Camp that is held annually at the YMCA’s Camp Adair in the Hunua Ranges, near Auckland, NZ is a special project that the Rotary Club of Remuera has developed, organised and successfully run. This year it was held on March 20-22. It has been happening every year for the past twenty or so years, and after another memorable camp, there are no plans to remove it from the calendar.
VIP is a three-day live-in camp for about 15 senior-school students who attend Homai College for the Blind, and an equal number of students from three partnering schools (Dilworth, Diocesan School for Girls, and Kings College) who become their buddies for the camp.
The aim is encourage the visually impaired students to spend time away from their home and school, to tackle a number of outdoor activities, and to challenge themselves to scale heights they have never dreamt of doing before.
All of the students, both sighted and visually impaired, have common goals – to have fun, to enjoy camp life which is not always accessible to the visually impaired, to enjoy the company of other students without their disabilities, to do something they have never done before, and just to hang out with other young people.
Camp Adair has young, fully-trained instructors who guide the students to climb up high climbing walls, jump from very high poles, go down mud slides, and kayak. Later, the VIP students sit around the camp fire singing, story-telling and toasting marshmallows with their sighted buddies.
Cameraderie around a warm camp fire
Remuera Rotarians from the Public Relations and Networking Committee are the team who organises the camp and they can co-opt others on to the committee. All of the food and meals are arranged by Rotarians, their spouses and partners, as well as the transport, which on the final day is used to take everyone to the hot pools for a BBQ and a dip before being delivered back to school.
It is truly magical to see the confidence levels rise in the VIP students, which is shown in many ways, from developing a warm relationship with their buddies to scaling a high wall to being away from their usual secure environment.
One buddy, when asked by his school’s organiser on the Monday after camp, “How was your weekend?” replied, “The best weekend of my life!”