Bearing Disability: Birmingham PHAB Camps

Disabled children holding the new logo of Birmingham PHAB Camps which they created together. One child is the author of the post

What is Birmingham PHAB Camps?

Birmingham PHAB Camps is a charity that means a lot to me and I’ll never forget it. When I was sixteen, I was going through a difficult time and my school suggested that I took a week holiday over the summer with this charity. So I did.  That, at the time, was my longest stay away from home.

Birmingham PHAB Camp takes disabled and able-bodied children based in Birmingham, UK, on holiday and has been doing so since the 60s. This is why their acronym has the outdated term: Handicaped – which originated from a time where disabled individuals begged on the street with their ‘hand-in-cap’.

That said, the acronym does spell out PHAB which is a pun on the word ‘fab’. And I have to say the camp is fab.

What does Birmingham PHAB Camps do?

They take children of all abilities on holiday, broken down into different age groups and usually stops after you turn 16 unless you have severe sensory disabilities – which is then extended until you are 25.

I cannot speak about the camps for the younger children or the ones for the adults but I can tell you about Venture camp.  My camp.

It was great. They allowed me to go for two years even though I would have officially been ‘too old’ for them. Each year there is a theme. In my first year, the theme was a circus and in the second year, it was mythology, specifically Roman, Greek and Egyptian.

Birmingham PHAB Camps holidays

We’d arrive on Saturday and do activities throughout the week.

So on Saturday the first thing we had to do was make our bed. Those that were able had to make their own bed, others were assisted. Then we’d all meet up at the sports centre and play icebreakers. My favourite one was two truths and a lie where one person tells two truths and one lie and people had to guess which one was the lie. We were then split into groups – lettered A-C but with sub-names to go with the theme. Both times my group name matched my costume (coming to that later),  I was in the Lion Tamer group and the Mighty Greeks.

Sunday was getting to know each other, a bonfire and a treasure hunt or food fight – I found the treasure hunt more fun than the food fight.

On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday each group alternated the activity they were doing. One group would be on site doing activities at the camp and the two other groups would go to two separate sites.

Birmingham PHAB Camps activities

On-site activities included a 3G swing, zip wire, indoor rock climbing and what they call the Bendipop!

Bendipop queen award (leaflet)

Onsite Activities

The 3G swing was an indoor swing – someone would be holding the rope the swing is attached to and start swinging you around like a yo-yo – it was really fun, but you got dizzy once it had finished.

The Bendipop is this tunnel you have to crawl through made out of bricks. It starts off at the bottom of the Zipwire building and finishes at the top. Inside is growing mushrooms, snails, slugs – and once you enter you cannot reverse. Why? the gap to move in is only enough for you to move through as if you were a snake. It would twist and turn, then I’d have to climb onto a platform that is just above my stomach to get to the next level until I reached the top and could see daylight.

In my second year, I was the Bendipop queen.

Off-site activities

Offsite, we’d go canoeing at Windermere Lake and then eat our lunch on this little island. Its trees were covered in bird feathers like thorns and looked like something out of a story. One of my camp leaders were good at telling stories, the other one was good at playing the ukulele.

We also had a canoeing race which was fun.

The other place we went to was inside a cave. Most of the cave could be done by wheelchair users but some of it was not accessible. So the wheelchair users were taken to somewhere else for some fun … hmmm, I should ask my friend where … while the rest of us were taken deeper into the cave. As a writer I loved it. It was a coincidence that one of my characters were put into a cave before I came to this camp and I used this to develop my cave scene. As we went through, the story leader told us stories of a statue made in honour of Queen Victoria’s Bossom and Witches Fingers that made you infertile and a crocodile that lives in the cave waters.

We waded through a stomach-deep body of water, above a large and painful piece of coral and squeezed through some tight gaps. It was amazing.

Surprise Thursday, Party Friday

On Thursdays there was always a surprise day relating to the theme – so you can probably guess that we went to a circus in the first year. The second year was really hard to guess the surprise. Would it be a museum? Gallery? We couldn’t guess, so on the Thursday, we got onto the bus and looked for clues. I personally didn’t see any so had no idea until we arrived that we were going to a theme park and I learned my love for water rides or rides that move slow.

The Friday we got to choose what we wanted to do for the day. Whether to stay on site or return to one of the off-site camps. I always chose onsite so that I could keep playing on the rock climbing wall.

In the evening, we had a party where we had to dress up in costume matching the theme. In my first year, I didn’t have a costume with me so they helped me make a lion outfit – which is why it went with my group name. The second year my dad helped me make a greek goddess costume and someone, who is now one of my best friends, and I matched!

It is an experience I won’t forget.  My best friend and  I helped make the new logo which is featured at the top. What do you think? 🙂

Read my friend’s post or their website for more details.

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