As I’ve mentioned previously, we are members of a group called New Family Social and each year they host a Summer Camp specifically for LGBTQ+ adopters – this includes prospective adopters, foster carers and anyone who has a connection with looked after children who considers themselves non straight. Basically, it’s really niche and inclusive at the same time.
In a bid to strengthen our links in the adoption community, alongside our love of camping, kids and general silliness, we decided to volunteer this summer (2019). What followed was five days/ four nights of something pretty special.
The location of the camp can’t be disclosed for safeguarding purposes, but suffice to say it is beautiful; wooded and hilly, with several different camping spots – some louder, for those who like to socialise and some secluded and private.
We arrived a day before the guests for briefing, getting to know follow volunteers and setting up. Some volunteers had been coming for years, but the majority were newbies like us. The first night we bonded over takeaway and a few glasses of wine and any initial nerves melted away.
Our tasks were varied and each day we had a rota which included an element of cleaning (if you’ve never operated a wet vacuum cleaner you are truly missing out), but also running activities: the week saw us facilitating leather craft, tiny tots sing along, badge making, fancy dress, den building, sports, pond dipping, grass sledging, quizzes, silent disco, teddy zip-wire, pizza making and a hole heap of other great stuff that has fallen out of my head. On the final day there was a traditional ‘village fete’, with the teens running stalls and me facilitating a dog show. Crufts it was not. I also danced on stage to Big Fish Little Fish but the less said about that the better. Tilting their head sympathetically to one side, a child told me they were proud of me for trying.
The sun shone and tribes of filthy, sun kissed children ran feral in the woods, without fear of cars or strangers. If a child had a melt down, rather than staring or judging, people empathised and offered support. Every evening we had a giant campfire. In short, it was magical.
The day we left, we popped to Tesco* and I made the mistake of smiling at a stranger and expecting it to be reciprocated – I guess we’re not at camp anymore Toto!
There was an overriding sense of togetherness and a shared feeling of ‘understanding’, which I have never experienced elsewhere. There was no expectation of having a Mum and a Dad, in fact adults were universally referred to as ‘grown ups’. For five days, in the English sunshine, the LGBTQ+ adoptive and fostering community went from being a minority, to the norm and it was bloody fabulous.
We’ll be there in 2020, perhaps with some mini campers in tow.
*other supermarket chains are available