And we’re back.

Wow. The whole trip feels surreal– like a dream.

It’s hard to put my feelings about this trip into coherent sentences. What I do know is that it was life-changing. Before Camp Baker, I felt awkward and uncomfortable around people with developmental disabilities. To be honest, I simply didn’t know what to do. But I have seen a 180 degree change since then. I now feel more than just passing pity and compassion for these people. I realized they are just like us: capable of loving, laughing, crying. They have needs, wants, dislikes.¬†Perhaps what separates them from us is that they lack the filter that most of us are used to having. Their idiosyncrasies are more apparent, whereas we carefully hide them because society tells us that they are not appropriate behaviors.

I also cannot have asked for a better team. At all of our pre-trip meetings, I saw a random group of people thrown together for a common cause. But as the trip progressed, I realized we all fit together so well into one cohesive, amazing team. I got the chance to meet and become close to people that I probably would otherwise never have spoken to. And even though we spent a week straight with each other, somehow we were mainly drama free, and I think that speaks well for the nature and strength of our relationships with each other. When we returned to Lafayette and parted at March Field, I think we were all left with a sense of emptiness. What do we do now? Why aren’t we still in Virginia? These are surely signs of a successful trip.

Now we have to look to the future. How can we bring back what we learned and apply it to the Lafayette community? This is a difficult question for us to solve, since disabilities are a delicate issue. I hope that whatever we do, it can bring about change, even if that change is small and gradual.

Our first couple of days…

    So, we’ve settled in nicely here at Camp Baker. It’s just beautiful, with lots of land to play on with the campers. All of the staff members have been incredibly kind and helpful, especially in letting us raid their pantry for food to make.

    On Sunday we had the pleasure of hanging out with the kids who were spending a weekend respit at Camp Baker. These weekends away allow their caretakers some much-needed free time, as one can imagine how hard it is to take care of someone with developmental disabilities every day. It was really rewarding to be able to connect with these kids. At first, many of them were difficult to understand because of their disabilities. You could tell they were trying to express themselves, so we tried really hard to figure out what they were saying. When we finally did, it was an amazing feeling for us and the kids.

    I think one of the more difficult aspects we faced was dealing with the non-verbal kids and adults. They’re mostly unable to speak, but they’re still very much cognitivelyt aware of their surroundings. It’s like their stuck in their own minds. However, when we were able to communicate through hand motions and visual cues, it was incredible. Suddenly it became obvious as to what they wanted, and we were usually happy to oblige.

    Today, we worked with the adult day support program. We were all apprehensive because none of us had much experience with adults with disabilities. It ended up being a really great time, making crafts and doing aerobic stretches with them. I look forward to working with them again throughout the week and getting to know them better. I feel like we can develop great relationships with them, and they will open up and let us make even more developmetal advances with them. Even if they’re small victories, it will still be great for all involved.

    We spent the evening in beautiful Richmond, walking around and eating some authentic southern food. It gave us a chance to bond as a team and learn some new things about each other. We also saw other ARC (the parent organization of Camp Baker) facilities, and saw disabled individuals preparing to live in the community, which was fantastic to see. They have the opportunity to work for wage, something many disabled people have not been afforded in the past.

    We’re all incredibly excited for the coming week! We’ll continue to interact with both the kids and the adults, and at the end we get to organize a carnival. I personally cannot wait, and I know my team feels the same way.

I can’t believe it’s tomorrow.

It still hasn’t really sunk in that in less than twenty-four hours we’ll be on the road, heading down to Virginia. I think it’ll start to become real when I finally get around to packing, but then again, maybe not until I wake up tomorrow morning, and roll my suitcase to March Field parking lot. My excitement for this week has been building for months and months, especially after seeing the presentations that the Interim trips went on. And here it is; finally the time has come.

Although I’m ecstatic to go on this trip, I’m also slightly apprehensive. I’ve never been on a trip (more like an adventure) like this before with my peers. I’ve also never spent extensive periods of time with those that are developmentally disabled, but I am incredibly excited for this opportunity . All of this makes for a completely new experience, so it’s understandable that I’m somewhat nervous. Never the less, I welcome the week with open arms, and I know it’s going to be a learning experience for all involved. I hope I return to Lafayette with some new perspectives on life, as well as a sense of fulfillment, and maybe if I’m lucky, a bad farmer’s tan.