“My first residential changed my life.” Eleanor Craik on being an NDCS volunteer (Part 1)

Posted on September 25, 2013

Eleanor Craik is an NDCS Volunteer. In this two-part blog she tells us about the kids that changed her life. 

I’ve been a volunteer at the National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS) for a while. Many people ask me, ‘how long have you been a volunteer for now?’ and I honestly couldn’t tell you – time just seems to slip away from me these days. Sometimes when I’m asked how old I am, I find myself surprised and confused to hear myself say 23! Yes, I know I’m still young but I’m not naïve. I know I won’t be young forever!

Eleanor  and volunteer friends

Eleanor and volunteer friends

Every summer for the past 3 to 5 years (I’m just guessing here), I’ve signed up for a residential week with the NDCS. I’ve had some amazing times. The first ever residential I did was in Buxton and it literally changed my life. I got to try the scariest things. I got to work with the nicest people and honestly the most amazing team leader. Tracey, if you’re reading this, come back soon!

Best of all, I met and supported the most awe-inspiring young children. I am always taken aback by the younger generation, their determination and strength to do anything. Some of them were able to abseil off this pretty scary looking, at least 100,000 metres high, arched bridge without even batting an eyelash.

Me, on the other hand, being terrified of heights, wanted to do more than just bat an eyelash.. I wanted to run!

You learn that although these are the children that you’re here to support, really, in times of dire and near death experiences, they’re the ones that will support you (although sometimes it feels more like an ambushing).

Of course, they would expect me to abseil off the bridge; of course I’d get asked to go with the one girl who was probably equally as terrified as me and of course, it would be the one girl that screamed in my ear the whole way down. (Yes I am deaf but I could still hear that!!).

I’ll admit when I first became a volunteer I had very limited knowledge of BSL and I often felt like I was missing out. It was somehow ironic to me that, having felt like I’ve been missing out constantly in life, always searching for some kind of meaning to fill the void, I still couldn’t find that missing jigsaw piece.

I was lucky in the first year because I had such a supportive residential group. We had communicators here, there and everywhere and luckily most of the group I supported were oral children that had grown up just like me, not taught BSL but encouraged to talk, to attend mainstream school and take any support available.

Often, the children would talk to me about their life experiences and I could completely relate to them. I hope they took that on board. I hope they understood that they’re not alone and they can, one day, switch roles and become the adult volunteer on the event saying the exact same words I did.

Read part two tomorrow: “I like being forced into doing scary things – it makes me feel alive”

Eleanor works several different jobs caring for disabled children. She likes subtitled films and ranting about any cinema that doesn’t provide them!! You can see her rants and raves on her shared blog with her best friend Imogene: http://a-subtitled-life.blogspot.co.uk/

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