The Mersea Island Festival takes place over the August bank holiday every year and brings together young people and adults with or without a physical or learning disability. The Festival provides an opportunity for attendees to try out new activities, make new friends, challenge themselves, build their self-confidence and independence – and have loads of fun.
The Cedar House team have been taking patients to the Festival for the past five years and are huge advocates of all that it does for our patients. Historically we’ve only taken a small group of around three patients but this year we were able to take six patients (and four staff).
For our patients, some of whom may have been hospitalised for many years, the Festival may be the closest they’ve come to a holiday in many years so prompts great excitement; as well as all of the advertised activities, patients are surprised by how much freedom they’re given – the environment is nothing like that which they are used to in hospital.
There is a real ‘no limits’ approach at the festival, with attendees encouraged to try whatever they would like to. Whilst all of our attending patients are ambulant we’ve seen patients in wheelchairs hoisted up to experience the feeling of abseiling and attendees participating in activities which elsewhere would simply not have been considered an option.
The benefits to our patients are huge, they get a chance to find out what they’re capable of and what their abilities are outside of a hospital setting. For many this is a brand new experience where they have the opportunity to mix with lots of other people with similar circumstances to their own.
Some of our patients are not big conversationalists so don’t always articulate what it is that they gain from attending the festival, but we can see it. They return with a confidence that they didn’t have before and they seem to ‘shine’ just that little bit more.
And this is isn’t just a ‘one off’, two of the patients attending this year have been before and one patient has attended three times. Not surprisingly, there is a great appetite amongst patients to be able to attend the festival and for those who are assessed as potentially able to attend, this is a great goal to work towards. It facilitates the re-enforcing of a boundaries and rewards structure that drives better behaviour.
We’re really proud of our patients who attend the Festival. Most other attendees, whilst living with similar conditions to many of our patients, are not from the same type of hospital as Cedar Lodge. The fact that we’re able to safely attend with our patients is testament to the progress they make whilst in our care and our focus on equipping patients with skills they will need for discharge.
Sometimes, a little trust goes a long long way.