Residentials have always been such an important part of Who Cares? Scotland life. A chance for members to connect and have fun beyond just a one day event. But then Covid happened and we had to hit pause on all of our in person events. 3 years have passed and we’ve just done our first members’ residential – the Summer Meet Up. We were able to take a small group of our 16+ members to Bonaly Scout Centre in Edinburgh at the start of August, and it was like we’d never left!
We arrived at Bonaly on Friday afternoon. The coach ride from Glasgow had been… interesting. There had been lots of diversions down tightly packed suburban streets, which our 50 seater coach had struggled with, but our members were sure to give the driver lots of encouragement, as we held our breath around every bend, they whooped and cheered when we made it. I think the driver really appreciated this support.
Once we had safely got off the bus and dumped our stuff in our rooms, we had a tour of the venue. Members and staff who had been before shared memories of times gone by, and proudly showed the new comers where things were.
The group then took part in some ice breakers to get to know one another. The ice broken, dinner was ordered, and everyone got the chance to chill out and play games as we waited for our chosen take aways to arrive. The group had barely finished their dinner when the first gunging occurred! ‘Gunging’ you ask, ‘what’s that?’. Well, thanks to Director Kenny Murray, there were gunging forfeits to be taken by staff and later, important guests, who had been judged by the group, to have committed some sort of wrongdoing. These poor individuals then had to have a seat on the gunge stool and have a bucket of warm, gloopy, fluorescent green gunge poured over their heads. The first victims were Denny Ford and Jordan Croan, and I’ll be honest, I can’t really remember what they were supposed to have done, but they took their gungings like champs.
Friday night was spent around the campfire, playing paper ball (trying to throw a small ball of paper into the fire… which was a lot harder than it sounds!) with entertainment being provided by the brave and sometimes talented individuals who got up on stage to sing, tell jokes, do push ups, dance, take photos… you get the picture. Then it was time for bed and although it took a while for the gunge mad mob to calm down, eventually after some relaxing, people were ready to sleep.
The next morning the group were greeted with breakfast rolls from the Kitchen Team, ready to get them energised for the day’s activities ahead. The ‘bowl of compliments’ was introduced; this was an opportunity for the group to write messages to each other which would be read out over meal times. These were so lovely to listen to as staff and young people left each other messages of encouragement and appreciation, which really set the tone for this weekend, which was one of love and support.
Some of the group went off site for a morning of 10 pin bowling, whilst those who stayed behind enjoyed walks in the nearby woods or card games and drawing. Once everyone was back on site the Activities Team led an Auld Yins versus Young Yins game of rounders, it was a tight game with interesting calls from both sides, we called it a draw!
It was then time for the highlight of the programme, the long awaited return of the Colour Run! For those of you who don’t know, the Colour Run started at our old Summer Camps and is an obstacle course you have to complete whilst being pelted with colourful powder paint, but this time there was added gunge and a very special guest. The First Minister, Humza Yousaf joined us at Bonaly to run the Colour Run with our members and then take a gunging alongside Who Cares? Scotland Chief Exec, Louise Hunter! Lots of fun was had by everyone! Then after many many showers, it was time for a BBQ! The FM stayed to chat to members and give an after dinner speech where he acknowledged The Promise was not being kept but that he was committed to doing something about this to make sure the Care Experienced community weren’t let down any further. He left us all chanting “No gunging! No party!” – the anthem of the weekend!
We spent the last night of the Summer Meet Up back around the campfire. This time we were lead in a group sing-a-long by member Alicia Santana and her guitar. We sang Ed Sheeran, Tracy Chapman, Oasis and The Proclaimers at the tops of our voices and ended the night with a conga around the fire.
Sunday saw members take part in the Summer of Participation survey, designed to capture the opinions of our members on key issues like leaving care, lifelong rights, stigma and advocacy. We then shared our reflections on the weekend before saying our goodbyes, with lots of hugs and smiles.
Here’s what our members had to say about the weekend:
“Good chance to chat with staff I had not met yet. The events were fun and the food was on point. Thanks for inviting me and letting me chill and play games with other people”
“Spending time with my care family. Meeting new staff and young people. Good activities. Colour run. Campfire/ talent show. The laughter. Good scran.”
“I found the Bonaly camp very fun and supporting each other, thank you to all the staff and young people for making the camp with so much banter and understanding each other. Thank you I have really enjoyed myself”
After the success of the Summer Meet Up, we want next year to be even bigger and better, and available to more of our members, so make sure you stay tuned to our socials for all the information you need to be part of next year’s Summer Meet Up!