THIS summer I did something I never thought I’d be able to – I embarked on a volunteering holiday to help deafblind children enjoy a week away from home, which also gives their parents a break from what can be a 24-hour task of care.

My expectations were somewhat sketchy – I was preparing for it to be hard work, so I was mighty nervous, but I also felt that everyone must have it in them to cope with something like this, so I should really be capable of it.

Sense, the charity behind the initiative, is the leading national charity supporting and campaigning for children and adults who are deafblind, ie have hearing and seeing difficulties (not all are completely blind and completely deaf).

They arrange a variety of holidays throughout England and Wales, including one at Holton Heath, between Lytchett Minster and Sandford.

Mine was just a short drive away in Wiltshire, Conygre Farm to be precise.

There, I and three other volunteers plus our leader, Liane, were in charge of making sure four 10 and 11-year-olds had a great week away.

Each of us was assigned to one holidaymaker, and I had the pleasure of looking after 11-year-old Archie, who has Charge, a rare syndrome involving a collection of anomalies, not all of which each person will have, including deafness, blindness, heart defects and facial palsy.

Archie was born at home in Boscombe, Bournemouth (his problems were not detected during the pregnancy), and received a great deal of care at both Poole and Southampton hospitals – including several heart surgeries in his first year – though his family later moved away.

The process of getting to know little Archie was sometimes difficult, but undoubtedly the most rewarding of my life so far – when that introverted little boy let us into his world, and we heard the sound of his laughter for the first time, it was the best sound in the world.

From swimming to adventure parks, the activities planned for the group by expert Liane were varied and fun, and though the week was exhausting in every way, it was a simply wonderful experience, and one which I intend to repeat in the future.

Twenty-seven-year-old Jon Hickman, from Broadstone, also volunteered on his first Sense holiday this year.

The science technician had recently completed his Level 1 Sign Language and that, together with his love of children and future plans for teacher training at Twynham School, made him feel the opportunity would be ideal.

A little nervous about the care element of the holiday at first, Jon was very impressed with the induction day provided by Sense – “they answered all the questions I had” – and felt fully prepared for his week at Tamarack Lodge in Somerset, looking after two wheelchair-bound 19-year-olds with cerebral palsy.

“It was fantastic – physically and mentally tiring, but really rewarding,” he said.

“I’d definitely volunteer again next year.”

Jon picked up on a piece in the Daily Echo, asking for volunteers on holidays for deafblind people of all ages.

Though he wouldn’t mind which age group he was asked to care for, Jon forged great bonds with the two teenagers on his holiday: “My lasting memory from the week will be me dancing with one of the lads to my Madonna album in the lounge.

“He had the biggest grin on his face!”

* If you would like to make a difference to a deafblind person and volunteer for Sense at an event or holiday, call 0845 127 0060 or go online to