Working alongside Camphill Community Glencraig
About 25 years ago, Liam took a booking from a group called “Glencraig Camphill Community”. The leader requested if it was possible that a tent could be erected in the front garden of one of the houses, as they were on a camping week. At the time, we knew very little about the work of the Camphill Communities around the world. Liam asked if there was anything else we could help with, and so began a tradition of BBQs, pony-riding, and music evenings. From these experiences, we have learned to help provide autism friendly holidays.
“Camphill Communities provide opportunities for adults and children with different abilities including those with learning and physical disabilities, to live and work, contributing equally in supportive respectful and inclusive environments.” Taken from Camphill Community NI Website
What began as one camping week, grew to become a regular holiday destination for the residents of Glencraig Camphill Community, located outside Holywood, Northern Ireland. Over the years we have met some of the most wonderful people, and have been lucky enough to count many of them as good friends.
When I returned to work at the family business, I worked alongside Glencraig. My role was to help build the respite holidays into some great adventures. Many of the co-workers that live in the community were students on gap year breaks from all around the world. What a wonderful opportunity to make connections with Germans, Brazilians, South Koreans, Argentinians.. the list went on and on. Above all, I gained in-depth experience in working with those with special needs, and being aware of accommodating their requirements.
Autism Friendly Days Out
We would set off on adventures to discover the best places to visit in Northern Ireland for those with special needs. Ensuring to get outdoors and into nature was one of the most important lessons for me. We talk nowadays about “eco-therapy” and “nature-bathing”, and I guess that’s exactly what we were doing. We visited all the local Forest Parks, Tollymore, Castlewellan, Kilbroney, Gosford, Slieve Gullion, Delamont.
Some of the local businesses went above and beyond in hosting our groups. One that sticks out in my mind of being the most generous and welcoming was Cocos Adventure Playground in Newcastle. The staff of Kilkeel swimming pool were always most welcoming. We went both sailing and snowtubing at Craigavon. We had tours around the magnificent grounds of the various National Trust estates and houses, Castleward, Mount Stewart, Rowallane, and Murlough Beach.
Unfortunately, changes in the healthcare system and cutbacks in funding, have led to a decrease in the provision of respite holidays for Glencraig. However, we have taken the lessons we have learnt over the years. We try to provide autism friendly holidays for those that stay with us. Whilst we no longer provide the pony riding on site. We have worked to build to improve our nature trail. This provides the opportunity to be outside amongst the trees without having to leave the site. Therefore, if you are looking at the option of autism friendly holidays send me an email. I will be happy to discuss with you to work with your needs.