Monday, 2 April 2012

NDCS Volunteering Weekend - Bristol

This weekend myself and fellow YABer Sophie have been rocking out at the Ramada Hotel in Bristol taking part in the NDCS Volunteer Training Weekend.

The weekend started in Friday night when I arrived at Temple Meads Station and had to go through the normal routine of finding someone easily lip-readable who looked like they knew where they were going in order to ask for directions. Lucky Sophie arrived on the plane in the morning and was saved the "hunt the deaf-friendly person" game by hitching a lift from a friend into town before spending the rest of the day in Primark!!

Attending the weekend were 6 other new volunteers, our three trainers: Andy, Rachel and Nyssa, and our two interpreters: Rachel and Amy.

Once we'd settled in to our rooms we had an amazing 3 course meal all together which was our first chance to properly meet the other volunteers for the first time. Sophie and I were lucky to already know Andy and the interpreters but I certainly felt a bit shy surrounded by all these new adults I didn't know! Apart from Sophie and I the only other deafie was a guy called Mumtaz who over the weekend we both got to know really well!

After dinner the group met for our  first sessionpl and played some ice-breaker games to learn everyones names and sign names. I'm so used to playing games with the YAB and on other NDCS events I didn't even think twice about the games, but looking back it was quite funny playing the games Ive played as a teenager with a room of adults who were having as much fun as I was! After a quick drink at the bar we all went to bed already exhausted...

The next morning Sophie and I were late waking up - for some reason the Ramada hotel doesnt have any of the wireless vibrating Fire Alarms which double up as alarm clocks... This meant that for the first part of the night I fretted alot about going to sleep in case something happened and also meant that in the morning I was relying on Sophie to wake me up when her phone alarm went off - in fact we both slept right through the alarm on its loudest setting.

When we finally woke up we were both tired and it was decided that we would have a "no hearing aid day".... I have to stress how weird and amazing this day was. Its so unusual that I spend even a few hours minus my hearing aids (except when I have an ear infection) and those few hours are nearly always full of stress whilst I try to communicate with various people. To have the opportunity for silence whilst still fully particpating in every single conversation and group exercise was an amazing experience and both Sophie and I were very reluctant to put our aids back in the next day. It was a definite insight into how we could live our lives in the future if we chose...

Our first tasks of the morning were team-work exercises. In my opinion these were a highlight of the weekend, especially when in groups we had to attempt to build the tallest tower of playing of cards possible! Incredibly difficult, but very amusing!!

Over the course of the day we did various other workshops including learning about the role of volunteers and a long session on NAPPI (Non-Abusive Physiological Physical Intervention), for me as a psychology student and someone passionate about going on to do a social work degree this was an amazing session and I really enjoyed learning about the behaviour scale and looking at responses to behaviour...

After dinner we had the chance to lead a game in pairs - Sophie and I paired up and led a game called "Buzzy Bees" where the aim is to buzz around the room until the leader raises their hand and calls out or signs a letter. At this point each person has to become something beginning with that letter. For example B = Banana. I think I was a fig at one point... A lot of the games were ones Id played at NDCS before and the ever popular pen game was played over and over very competitively.

On Sunday morning we all took part in a prison break game. The aim was to (without speech or sign) communicate to Rachel, up in her helicopter, the password (NDCS) without the prison guards becoming suspicious... My group used flip chart paper with letters written on N-D-C-S-HELP! in order to successfully escape :) another brilliant game Ill definetely be sharing in the future! After this we did a session on child protection, a little depressing but incredibly necessary and delivered in a way that allowed plenty of interesting debate!!

Finally in the afternoon Mark - a deaf NDCS volunteer who all us deafies have met at one stage of our NDCS childhood! - came along to run a hilarious session about being a deaf role model complete with his usual impersonations and jokes. It was without doubt the session I enjoyed most all weekend and I found it really interesting and helpful to have to think about informed choice and what I would say in response to questions asked to me by parents of deaf kids. It resonated with my experiences of having been asked numerous questions, or having answered questions, on the NDCS facebook page and totally equipped me with skills for the future.

Oh and I forgot - Sophie and I even snuck in time for a swim in the pool at the hotel and 15 minute chill out in the sauna on Saturday afternoon! perfect!! :)

The whole weekend was amazing and Ive made friends that I will definetely be staying in contact with for many years! It was brilliant to see and experience first hand life as an NDCS volunteer. Having grown up an NDCS kid and having been on the YAB I feel its only right to "give something back". Every deaf child deserves the amazing experiences Ive had and I only hope that NDCS will be able to continue offering events and residentials (with me as a volunteer!!) for many 100s of years into the future! They are an amazing opportunity for every deaf child and young person to meet other deafies, grow in confidence, try activites they might not want to do with hearing kids; and perhaps most importantly the volunteers themselves provide the perfect deaf role-model to look up to! I cant wait to be part of that from the "grown-up" side!


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