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My name is Tim and I’ve kindly been given the opportunity to tell my journey at People Outdoors. I guess it all started back in 2001 when I was studying a Certificate IV in Adventure Tourism. We had an excursion to the Outdoor Recreation Centre in Viewbank. Now you wouldn’t think Adventure Tourism has much to do with People Outdoors but our course had a big outdoor education component and that is where People Outdoors comes in. After learning more about People Outdoors, it sounded like it was right up my alley. I had already done some volunteer work in disability and love the outdoors so it was a perfect fit. I did my first camp in September 2002. My first People Outdoors camp experience was great and I haven’t looked back since.

I have been a part of People Outdoors for 15 years and have seen the program grow and change significantly. Over the years the People Outdoors office has had quite a few homes and the whole reason the program has been so successful for nearly 30 years is because of all the dedicated staff, volunteers, program leaders and of course, the campers. Everyone’s enthusiasm and energy is infectious. I have made many great friends over the years and met so many great campers and their families. I have been to so many great campsites and met countless, extremely generous and welcoming camp operators. I have also been very lucky to gain some paid employment at some of the camps.

It was a great honour and privilege for myself and Tal Hardwood to be recognised with an award at the ACA National Conference in June of this year (2017). It was a very humbling experience for me personally. I was so glad to be able to share the experience with Tal as we have been on many camps together. We both wouldn’t have made it this far without the support from the awesome People Outdoors staff, fellow volunteers and Program Leaders, campers and campsite operators. Being recognised for my 100th camp in such a way was very special and memorable. I am very grateful to everyone that was involved in keeping the celebrations such a big surprise!

It has been rewarding working with the same campers over a number of years on “Adventure for All” week-long school holiday camps. It’s nice to be able to watch campers grow from year to year and to be requested by their parents to look after their children again. Meeting the campers and their families before camp gives us, volunteers, an opportunity to provide a comfortable and somewhat familiar camp experience for the camper while still challenging them to try new things.

The biggest challenge on camp is trying to modify equipment and activities such as the giant swing, flying fox and canoeing so no matter how physically limited someone may be, everyone can have a go, especially when they really want to! Working with people with a disability in the outdoors, often makes you think outside the box in order to modify and adjust an activity so that campers can safely participate. It’s great to see a camper going home stoked about what they did on camp and then able to share their experiences and stories with their families!

I have had many memories from camp ranging from dressing up in costumes, avoiding leeches on bushwalks, delivering a baby wombat on the side of a road and capsizing almost every canoe I have been on with my camper. People Outdoors have also given me an opportunity to volunteer on an interstate camp in Sydney and support campers at special events such as the Great Victorian Bike Ride and snow camps.

I have been volunteering at People Outdoors for many years and the main thing that keeps me coming back is the fun and enjoyment that each camp brings. I enjoy the challenge of working with new and returning campers and those with challenging behaviours. It is nice to know that our families and carers can get a small break, while their campers are having a great time. As a volunteer I have made many life-long friends and have met some extraordinary people. Spending time outdoors and being able to see some beautiful parts of our state is a bonus!