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"Working to Recovery" Summer Recovery Camp 2015

About a year ago, my partner Ron Coleman said to me lets have a recovery camp, I said what’s one of those and he said I am not sure but lets invent it.

We talked for many hours, we looked at our recovery houses and took aspects of our learning from these.  It should be in a beautiful environment, the day time should have a structure that allowed for time together as a big group, with smaller workshop spaces, we wanted a relaxed but busy atmosphere, which built energy and sense of purpose.  We wanted it to have the same feel as our past conferences - a safe place, cutting edge themes, a place where dialogue happens between workers, family members and people with lived experience, but without the formality of a conference.  We wanted it to have an international feel, a coming together of different perspectives and a place where people could be creative. For the night-time, we wanted to create fun, togetherness, dance, good music and the feel of a festival.  It had to be affordable, in a place that people could access reasonably easily and have facilities that suited different levels of need and comfort.

We started talking about our ideas at our trainings and with friends to see what people thought of the idea and people loved it.  In the autumn thanks to our good friend Jim Campbell we found the perfect venue Mathrown of Mabie, a campsite in the forest 4 miles from Dumfries in Scotland.  It had bunkhouses, a Tipi, a Yurt, a Round House, Sauna and Hot Tubs, with plenty of camping spaces in a beautiful ancient forest.

It was booked up a year in advance but they had a cancellation for June 7th to 12th 2015 we booked the whole site, paid the deposit and started to plan further.

We enrolled Jim and his partner Laura to help co-ordinate, they knew the site and helped form the skeleton of our ideas.  Next my middle son’s Father a musician and sound technician Chris and his lovely wife and close friend of Ron’s, Helen became our artist in residence.  She was so excited to be back doing what she loves best, creative projects for each day - mask making, painted stones, banners and many other artistic ventures.  
Next we decided some of the people we wanted to be speakers and Elders during the week, Lewis Mehl Medrone an American Native Indian Psychiatrist & Healer and his wife Barbara a Creative Therapist were the first people we asked, they loved the idea and gave their time for free, as did all the Elders.  They became the leaders of our ceremonies creating a spiritual and sacred space, offering stories of healing and ancient wisdom.  Rufus May and partner Elizabeth agreed to come for 2 days offering workshops on sensitivity and dialoguing with voices.  Berta Britz a wonderful inspirational peer from Pennsylvania was also excited by the prospect of travelling to the UK and offering her wisdom of her own recovery.  Marius Romme and Sandra Escher were to run a 4 day training on the Maastricht interview - unfortunately Sandra broke her leg 6 weeks before camp and they were unable to attend, but Matt Ball a psychiatric nurse from Adelaide in Australia and a person who had also lived experience of psychosis offered to tell his story and run a couple of workshops on his experience of using the Maastricht interview in his practice.

Barrie Wylie and his partner Rachel were ardent Facebook users who had created some well used Facebook groups, like Positive Mental Health Support, were our first people to book places.  They took up the mantle of social media experts and helped create excitement about the camp.  I also asked Barrie to run a workshop on how social media had helped his own recovery journey.

We had been part of starting the Scottish Recovery Network many years before and asked Simon Bradstreet the Director to come and open the camp..  As people booked we asked them if they would like to run workshops and many people came forward, the programme developed.  We were not going to have keynote speeches but had big tent discussions led each day on different themes by ourselves and the other Elders.  The themes were developed around our ideas on the process of recovery - COPS - Choice, Ownership, People and Self.  

Preparing for Recovery was Ron and my personal theme, and the importance of story and telling your own truth was Lewis & Barbara’s.  Creating communities of recovery with dialogue and trialogue was shared with Rufus and Elizabeth.  Matt, Berta and Graham Morgan gave personal stories and the power of peer support.  Participants volunteered to run workshops, poetry, yoga, chi gong, walking in the woods, WRAP, spirituality, PeerZone, advocacy and self directed payments were some of the themes.
We booked the evening bands, for Ron’s birthday night a blues band whose set had everyone up dancing and rocking, my knee’s have not been the same since!

Sophie Bancrofts jazz band was a chilled out evening.  In the day time herself and partner double bassist Tom ran a jazz singing workshop, about 12 of us became a choir and sang during the evening many performing for the first time, my daughter Lexx and myself also sang solos with the band during the evening.  Wednesday night was Mad Pride night, with people contributing - Ron set the scene with some stand up comedy, then Jim a very competent magician did a wonderful set, this was followed by guitar solo’s, our 12 year old daughter Francesca telling a story in Gaelic, poetry, a beautiful young singer called Liv found her confidence to perform again and sang her own songs and our 16 year old son followed in his fathers footsteps and offered his first stand up comedy performance.

For the last night a Celidh band, with many having the first taste of Scottish dancing.

The last morning a closing ceremony, led by Lewis & Barbara thanking the ancestors and spirits for their time.  From the isle of Lewis Jane and her partner came to offer readings and remember those that had not survived.  The camp was adjourned not closed with many emotional goodbyes until the next year, already we have support for camps in Australia, NZ, America and the UK, lets hope we have started a movement for communities of recovery, a celebration of diversity, a place where people can come together to celebrate, protest, and plan the revolution of how emotional distress is dealt with in our world.  Most importantly we created a community of recovery for a week, next step to create communities of recovery around the world, not just as temporary camps but long lasting oasis’s with in our communities.

Here are a few of the comments people who attended have made on Facebook about their experience of staying at camp:
Every night at the recovery camp we were royally entertained.  Open mics, poetry, stand up comedy and exquisite music.  Hot tubs and camp fires under night sky stars.  Daytimes we had talks, sharing and workshops.  Groups and one to one interactions.  Art was made.  Dreams were built.  Tears shed.  We laughed a lot.  Much healing of mind body and spirit.  We co created a sanctuary in a very beautiful setting.”

“Hiya folks hope and trust all are well, I just got home last night from recovery camp, may sound cliched or melodramatic, but it was totally inspiring, invigorating, transformative, if anyone gets the chance next year go.

What a great week we had looking forward to next year already.
It was great and amazing bands at night on camp also, totally fun filled positive educational inspirational sensational all rounder...... I can highly recommend to al booking yourselves to attend the future up and coming camps.
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Posted: 17/06/2015 11:10:07 by Jim Campbell
Free health camp
Thank you for giving information about recovery camp. your blog is very nice. vtsbharath conducted many free health camps in various places.
23/02/2018 08:38:04
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