MACS-imum adventure

MACS-imum adventure

By Col Stocker>

Adventure week for visually impaired children

“My son loved the week. He has a learning disability and social anxiety, and he was definitely NOT attending. He struggles with his behaviour and finds it hard to find an accepting social group. But he had a fantastic time... He has made friends of a similar age and participated in every activity, which again is not like him. When I went to collect him, he seemed so comfortable and happy – it was so emotional to see.”

MACS is a registered charity supporting children born with small eyes, no eyes or with part of their eye structure missing: around 85 children are born with these conditions in the UK each year. Back in 2021 they were after support towards the costs of an adventure week to be held at the Calvert Trust in the Lake District. Running over seven consecutive days, the first three days cater for children aged 5-10 (each taking one parent) with the final five days seeing children aged 10-18 attend without a parent.

Liz Bates, CEO at MACS outlines why these experiences are so beneficial.

“MACS children face multiple issues, the absence of eyes is linked to brain development and they can also suffer from learning difficulties, behavioural problems and conditions that placed them into shielded medical groups. These kinds of trips are designed to instil confidence in the children who will spend time on activities they do not normally get to experience including canoeing, caving, zip wires and climbing. All children, regardless of disability, will be able to try out all of the activities and achieve things they never thought possible.”

It’s constantly being proven that outdoor activity and learning can hugely benefit confidence, independence and resilience, particular through these early formative years. When faced with disabilities and further obstacles, many of which they will have to adapt and learn how to live with throughout their life, these kinds of experiences can prove even more important and really life changing.

“My daughter came back more confident but more importantly more independent, this is the longest she’s ever been away from home. I think she was nervous to start with, but she really got into the stride of it and loved every second”

We had the pleasure in supporting another of their adventure weeks back in 2018 and you can read the impact this had here. Sadly, like many when COVID hit they had to cancel activities planned for the summer of 2020.

"For all of the children and young people we support the last year has been very hard, lack of social contact, the reliance of visually impaired children on touch – which is now very limited, and a lack of independence for our older MACS young people have had significant impact."

So we were delighted to be able to offer a little help again this year to go towards the costs of the week. It was lovely to receive a report back from Robbie Crow, Chairman at MACS from their most recent week and it was amazing to hear once again how through the week the young people overcame many physical and emotional challenges, with the group showing each other tremendous support and many new friendships being formed. 19 young people aged 10-18 took part in the five-night adventure and completed a wide range of activities including: ghyll scrambling, bushcraft, catamaran sailing, kayaking and a high ropes course. In the evenings they also participated in a wide range of social activities including a talent show, team challenges and finishing their stay with a celebratory disco.

“This week away came as Covid-19 restrictions eased, and although this trip did not focus on the impact of Covid-19, it became apparent when the young people were talking how significant the impact of repeated lockdowns had been. The inability to attend school and not seeing friends had negatively affected both their self-esteem and confidence.”

“This trip has made a huge difference. It was a great eye opening experience for me and my child too. I never knew things she was capable of until we came on this trip.

From the younger group, four children (aged 6, 7, 8 and 10) each accompanied by their mum, took part over the three days of the weekend adventure break. Normally they would have had around 10-12, but due to Covid-19 uncertainties just six families had signed up to come and unfortunately two needed to withdraw at the last minute. This didn’t effect the outcomes of the weekend of course. As well as giving the children confidence it also helped give the parents greater understanding as to what their children are capable of and what they can now have the confidence to get out and do as a family.

“Everyone in the group completed every activity. Over several feedback sessions with the parents they reflected on common themes, they all shared the view that they were often over protective of their children and that they would consider these feelings going forwards.“

If you want to find out more about the fantastic work they do then please visit their MACS website

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