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Volunteer Nursing with Breakaway

Volunteer Nursing with Breakaway
Photo: Volunteer Nursing with Breakaway
Why Breakaway!
Well some years ago a friend told me about the voluntary work that she did at a wonderful place called Breakaway. Her Breakaway experience  had started as a component of her nursing degree. A group of  nursing students and their supervising teacher  came to Breakaway for a practical care placement. Something clicked on that first camp and Breakaway became more like family for her.  She knew that I enjoyed working with people with disabilities and kept telling me what a wonderful place it was and how special the people were. My friend was spot on, but it still took me three years to organise myself to get there – then I was hooked, because it was all that, and so much more.
Breakaway is an amazing place that works extraordinarily hard to enhance the lives of people with disabilities and their families. It does this by running a whole range of camps throughout the year.
The main Breakaway Camps run for 6 days and cater for adults with a wide range of physical disabilities including congenital disorders, acquired brain injuries, paraplegia,  quadriplegia and many more, These campers can come from all over Australia, because surprisingly, though there are many places that are now disabled friendly, there is nowhere else that  we are aware of that runs a complete programme for the campers and is staffed by volunteers.
If you or I want a holiday we pick a spot, book it, save our money and go. For most people with a disability it is much more complex. Pick a place which is disabled friendly (this equates to wheelchair access and specially designed shower facilities). Next there is the matter of acquiring a carer (a very expensive exercise), equipment (some disabled folk would need a small truck), and what activities are available that are disabled friendly??? – Again a high degree of difficulty.
Breakaway provides most of the equipment needed, apart from specialised wheelchairs (most of these are unique to each camper), personally designed commode chairs and slings. Activities at camp can include motorbike and sidecar rides, sailing with sailability, craft, cooking, discos, a dinner dance, wheelchair football or soccer, games, quizzes, bingo, drumming, concert and numerous other entertainers.
Breakaway volunteers come from all walks of life. There  are students from a variety of courses, retirees, nurses, AIN’s, mine managers, CEO’s, hairdressors, housewives and mothers, school teachers, salesman, labourers and probably  representatives from most occupations you can name. What the volunteers have in common is the desire to make a difference in the lives of these people and their families - and we do. Elderly parents of campers organise their surgery/ recovery times,  or that much needed holiday around camp availability.   Our waiting list for camp is now greater than 3 years.
I personally would go crazy if I had to wait 3 years for a holiday- but for some of these campers this is their  reality. Families get very little respite and they don’t like to place their loved ones in nursing homes. There are few high care facilities for young people with high level disabilities and Breakaway is something they look forward to from Camp to Camp.
Unfortunately there are many of our young campers who live in nursing homes because there is no where else to give them the level of care they require – it is a sad and inappropriate situation, but this again is their reality.
At Breakaway there is a paid staff of 8 in total, comprising an operations manager, office staff, volunteer recruitment officer, fundraising and grants co coordinator, maintenance man, 2 cleaners and a part time gardener who are supported by a small but amazing army of volunteers.
Breakaway is run by a Board of Directors (unpaid) and receives no direct government funding. Funds to keep Breakaway viable are sourced by applying for grants, fundraising, donations and hiring of facilities. It is a not for profit organisation.
So back to my original question - Why Breakaway ?
There is just something about the place and the people. It is a wonderful experience and puts life in perspective.
What skills can you acquire or refine?
- The ability to communicate in many forms, but especially non verbal communication.
- The use of movement aids, especially lifters and slings.
- Enhance your ability to think outside the square
- Personal growth
- Appreciation of the basics of good oral hygiene
- The importance of GOOD bowel care
- The importance of teamwork
- The importance of time management
You will meet wonderful people with amazing stories of their life’s journey.  Fun, laughter, tears and a tangible feeling of accomplishment after each camp.   Achieve a satisfaction which is a lot different from paid work, and the thankyou’s are those rare gifts that are heartfelt and sincere.   The smiles that you will inspire on the faces of the campers are awesome.  All the hugs and shoulders to cry on come for free.
Some people give us a few hours of their time – some give a whole week. It is up to the individual and what you can manage.  Full training is provided free of charge and is delivered in simple modules. There are attainment certificates for every module of training completed.  Accommodation  and meals are provided.
I believe that everyone should experience Breakaway and hope that some of you reading this may want to try it – because it is a place well worth experiencing.
Leonie Ford
Volunteer RN
Camp Breakaway


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