Sense Holidays give every child the chance to feel the excitement of their first trip away from home

Claudine is one of our brilliant volunteers, who makes Sense Holidays possible. Last year, she supported Orla, 11, on her very first holiday. 

Orla has CHARGE syndrome, which means she is deafblind – although she does have some vision, so she uses British Sign Language (BSL). She also has some difficulty with her balance, and eats her meals through a feeding tube. Here, Claudine explains what happens on a Sense Holiday, and why it’s such an exciting time for a child like Orla. 

Orla, a young girl in a green dress and yellow, flower-shaped sunglasses, grins and gives a double thumbs up to the camera.

Last year, I was lucky enough to support Orla on her first Sense Holiday. Her excitement was infectious – it made me relive my own early childhood memories.

It’s a special kind of excitement that I’m sure many of us remember: the anticipation of going away on your first holiday without your mum and dad. 

I remember being so thrilled about my first primary school trip. Being given the opportunity to roam around with my friends, without my parents, was the best thing ever at 10 years old. 

I think every child deserves to feel that elation. That’s why I volunteer on Sense Holidays

For children like Orla, it’s not easy to make those memories, because there are so many barriers. But thanks to Sense, she got to feel the freedom of being just like any other kid on her first break from mum and dad.

Volunteering on Sense Holidays allows me to relive childhood joy

I first found out about Sense Holidays because I use sign language, and I was looking for opportunities to be in a signing environment. 

“These holidays are so important for the young people that Sense supports. The experience helps them to build confidence, meet new people and just have access to regular experiences that so many of us have – and maybe some of us take for granted.”

Lots of people who go on Sense Holidays sign, and so they’re always looking for volunteers who use BSL. When I applied, it felt like a good fit, and I could tell it was going to be a really lovely experience. 

My first year on a Sense Holiday, I was a bit anxious, just because I didn’t know what to expect.

But the other volunteers immediately put me at ease. They were such a nice mix of people, all from different walks of life, but all passionate about supporting people. 

The thing I loved the most about my Sense Holiday experience was just seeing how the holidaymakers really embraced their time away. Getting to be a part of that experience with them was so special. 

Something else I love about Sense Holidays is that the holidaymakers choose what activities to do, and do as much or as little as they fancy. It’s flexible. It’s their holiday, after all. 

I decided I had to go again, so I signed up to volunteer for a second holiday in 2023. That’s when I met Orla!

Orla was so excited to make new friends

Orla tasting a marshmallow while sitting with a Sense Holidays volunteer in the woods.

Immediately when I met Orla, she was so warm and friendly. She greeted everyone, and asked for their names, with real confidence. She wanted to get to know everyone.

She enjoyed taking part in some of the activities, like toasting marshmallows in the woods. Orla eats her meals through a tube, so she couldn’t eat the marshmallows, but she was smiling so much because she could taste the sweetness.

She did some face painting, too, which she was really good at. And we did a lot of hanging out in the sensory room together. 

But Orla’s favourite thing was definitely just spending time with the other holidaymakers. She’s very affectionate, kind and caring. 

She had a best friend on the trip, Bethany, who Orla knew from before. They were really sweet together. 

They loved going on the trampoline together, painting each other’s nails, and just doing all the things that 10-year-old girls do. 

Sense Holidays give everyone the opportunity to make special memories

For Orla to be in an environment where other people could sign was really important. It meant she could be her natural outgoing self, socialising and communicating with everybody.

It was her first time doing this kind of thing – sleeping over and staying with a friend – and she was so excited to be sharing a room with her best friend. Not to mention, the fact that her mum and dad weren’t around!

I’m sure that was a big boost for her confidence and independence. On holiday, she had support available all the time to do whatever she wanted, whether that was an activity, or just chilling out and making friends. 

I think that’s what it’s all about – giving Sense holidaymakers the opportunity to feel that freedom of a holiday.

Without people’s generous donations, Sense Holidays wouldn’t happen.

These holidays are so important for the young people that Sense supports. The experience helps them to build confidence, meet new people and just have access to regular experiences that so many of us have – and maybe some of us take for granted. 

What an amazing thing to support someone to do something new or meet someone new, and make memories that will last for life. 

Help more children like Orla experience a Sense Holiday

This year, holiday applications increased by 30%. Sadly, it’s impossible to say ‘yes’ to every child who applies. 

That’s why every penny we receive from people like you is absolutely vital.