Leicester Children’s Holidays volunteer Sam Wood is an integral part of the team who accompanies children to the Hilltop Outdoor Centre. He talks about his important role.
I was part of the team to check out the Hilltop Centre back in 2018 and was proud to have travelled on that inaugural trip. This was a try-out for 20 children and was a huge success. So much so, that, after another 44 children went in 2019, Hilltop has been chosen as a destination for another 80 children this summer. And I will be joining them.
In my job as a teaching assistant at a special school in Loughborough, I work with special needs youngsters. I suppose my experience is useful to helping and understanding the children who get to go on holiday.
My job is incredibly rewarding as I assist children in Year 2 and 3 – who are aged 6 or 7 – to develop and grow and also help them to learn. Most of them have autism and others have Down’s Syndrome and Asperger’s. It is hard work but hugely enjoyable.
I was invited by Leicester Children’s Holiday’s vice chair Jean Lewis to help out the charity. Jean is chairman of governors at my school.
I put my name forward straight away after hearing what amazing work the charity does. Then when I went on the first trip I found myself being as nervous as the children! But I should not have worried because as soon as we were on the coach, we were all chatting away.
It is the same with every trip now. We all get on the coach, start talking and the children end up telling me their life stories! It is great to be trusted that way from the start. Even the ones who were slightly withdrawn or shy were talking by the time we got to Hilltop.
My role on the trip involved helping with team building and supporting the children in everything they did. Very few of the children knew each other at the start but it was good to see them all make friends quickly. The tasks set by the Hilltop staff were so well put together, they made sure of it. There is a focus on the children helping each other out and building their confidence during the week.
There was some challenging behaviour on the trip but clear rules were set so the children knew where they stood. And there were wonderful moments when all they wanted was a cuddle. That was great.
Both the trips I went on were a tremendous opportunity for me – and a great experience. To watch the children grow and change through the week was very rewarding. Both times, they have been a great mix of children. I am all set for next summer when I am going for two weeks.