The children of Barretstown camp

Barretstown is a not-for-profit camp in Ireland for children with cancer and serious illness. Throughout the year camps run from 3 to 10 days, bringing up to 100 children aged 7 to 17. People from 22 countries join together to experience one of the most magical places you could imagine.

There are some permanent staff, some session staff and many volunteers in each camp all known as caras (Irish for friend). They come from many different walks of life, with ages ranging from 18 to 70+. I’ve been going there for one week each summer for the last 15 years as a chaperone and volunteer cara.

The campers experience activities including canoeing, fishing, horse riding, climbing, music, theatre and photography. With support from the caras, each activity encourages campers to do something they haven’t done before, while learning new skills and developing confidence. It’s great to see how the campers grow and go home with a step up in confidence and self-esteem; something that can be shattered when suffering from cancer or similar diseases.

The children of Barretstown camp

But I’ve also seen and experienced the impact the camp can have on the staff and volunteers – and that’s just as amazing. Mutual support, respect and team work are built into the foundations of the processes used on camp and build the confidence of everyone who works there. You may not realise it at the time, but the techniques used with campers, also work on caras. People leave with a memory of what it’s like to work in an environment where you can be mentally and physically exhausted every day, yet still have the energy to do it all again the next day.

This is a place that puts most people outside their comfort zones. Imagine being responsible for the welfare of many sick children without their parents being around; you have to care about what you’re doing to put in the effort, but when everyone around you cares about the same thing, magic happens.

In the midst of the most significant challenges to life young people can face, you can find the most life-affirming moments imaginable.

I’ll be applying to go back again.

Martin is an industry recognised leader in the architecture of business systems and has led the development of many of the consulting tools used globally in Microsoft’s strategy consulting business. At Team Martin focusses on our internal processes to ensure we can deliver medical devices effectively and efficiently for our clients.

Like it