What is Respite?
I was asked that question in a business meeting the other day and a short answer for that question would probably be “some sort of break or holiday away from the daily drudge.” That is not the case when you talk to most unpaid carers. Most just want five minutes to themselves to drink a “hot cup of tea or coffee” or go for a Wee.
That wish came true for a few last Saturday when Credu visited Dal dy Dir, just outside Kerry and there seemed to be magic tea and coffee pots, they were never empty. The sun was shining and the birds were singing there was also the sound of children laughing. I had missed the main entrance but spotted the Poly tunnels and found a spot to park the car by a barn/shed where other cars were parked. I looked across the fields and there were some Sheep, Goats and Free range Children in them. I could also smell wood smoke and spotted on the side of the hill above the fields in the woods a camp fire. I felt I was in the right place.
I walked back along the road and went in through the front gate. In front of me was an open garden space with games like Badminton set out on the lawn plus the fenced tennis court (reminded me of being back at school) and if you looked a bit further into the wooded area on the front there was a play area with climbing frame and swings. Must be so magical for the young ones to discover these hidden away areas in the garden. There was no one around out front so I just followed the signs and while I was in amongst the flower beds I came across a couple who had been staying overnight. They had heard the animals bleating and children’s voices and were going to see what was going on. They seemed unsure so I started to chat to them about our Credu ‘Take Over’ for the day and what Credu was and what Credu did. I explained to her the Credu view of Respite. She was amazed at what we were doing. Turns out she was an Ex Social Worker from Birmingham and felt a little burned out. They were only on a 1 night stay and had come to Dal dy Dir to ‘take a look’. They loved the area and said they would return but what felt good for me was the fact that this lady thanked me for chatting to her and said that our chat had inspired her and she was planning to get involved some way with either Credu or Dal dy Dir by volunteering.
More people had arrived and were sat on the lawn. More chairs appeared and the magic word coffee was mentioned. Next I saw John one of the Dal dy Dir team with a bunch of youngsters directing them to a ‘Firestarter’ called Callum up in the woods and sent them away like a shepherd would his sheep dogs. He then came and started chatting to those drinking on the lawn. The atmosphere was incredibly relaxed even though many of the people arriving were strangers to each other, for most the only place they had seen some of the others was over Zoom during activities Credu has been putting on throughout the Covid Pandemic. For some people this was the first outing they had been on where they would come in contact with a group of others for over 12 months.
There were so many things happening without really realising they were going on that I could write about it for hours. But some of the things that really stick in my head are the family with the young man in the wheel being push up to the camp fire and then shown how to do so whittling while being sat on his dads knee and the smiles that produced for all the family. Coming across youngsters ranging in the wood no adults with them (though not far away) just adventuring on their own like Dora Explorer. The environment was SAFE! And if there was accidents like a strained ankle they came wandering back helping the wounded and an adult (Dal dy Dir team) would deal with it and find the frozen peas and half an hour later the repairs were done and off they went on more adventures.
Everyone was chatting and so much was being said. Dads chatting to Dads, Moms to Nans, Nans to wives or husbands everybody coming together and learning. Everybody happy to ‘keep an eye’ for everybody else so everybody got a break and some Respite even though they had their ‘Cared For’ with them for the day out. At one point I was sat with Credu Mandy and she was completely engrossed in painting a mug. Marie had taken her daughter off on her push chair and her young son was with another carer family. Mandy spoke about what Respite meant to her and it wasn’t about sending her daughter away for a week (she felt she was too young to be sent somewhere anyway) it was about being away as a family, feeling her daughter’s needs can be met alongside her sons. Simple things like just going to the loo become a challenge for a mom with 2 kids what must it be like when one of those kids needs to stay in the pushchair. Because there were so many people at Dal dy Dir giving her just a small amount of support she was able to paint the whole mug without interruption. Another lady was able to wander off and have an adult conversation without feeling guilty or worrying about the person they were caring about. One of the other things I saw on that Day was the camp fire and toasting Marshmallows. This was amazing, we had been told that this was going to happen at 2pm and it was so odd, it felt like everybody was waiting for it with excitement. When the time came folks started drifting into the woods we even took the teardrop flag and it looked like we were going on a pilgrimage. We went further and further up into the wood. Where help was needed help was given. I sat and watched 2 youngsters, that hadn’t met before the day, talk to each other asking questions about each others’ lives and families it really was brilliant. The real little ones were helped to toast their Marshmallows on the pointy sticks they had made with Callum in his knife skills session. I can’t really explain the magic that was happening on that day. What I do know though is that many did not want the day to end.
In the future I hope Mandy will use this mug and fill it with Coffee and think about her Respite Day at Dal dy Dir and think of it as being as full of human kindness as this day was.